CHRO

VOLUME IV.NO.VI. NOVEMBER-DECEMBER 2001

 

Contents:

 

SPDC uses Forced Labor in Army Owned Farm

 

SPDC Troops Forced Chin Villagers To Serve as Porters

 

Forced Portering In Thantlang Twongship

 

SPDC Soldier Robbed Villagers

 

SPDC Lt. Colonel Demanded Solar Plate From Chin Villagers

 

Civilians Forced to Repair Army Camp

 

SPDC Soldiers Looted From Civilians

 

Can’t Afford Identity Card

 

Burmese Army Force Chin Civilians to Sell Liquor

 

” You Must Play Soccer” Said SPDC Captain

 

ICRC Suggests Some Prisoners Not Relevant to Hard Labour

 

LETTER & PRESS RELEASE:

 

Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s Letter to The Burmese Regime

 

Burma’s Democracy Leader Still Under House Arrest, Ten Years After Winning Noble Peace Price

 

FACTS & ARGUMENTS:

 

Canadian Ties to Burma’s Dictatorship

 

HUMAN RIGHTS:

 

SPDC uses Forced Labor in Army Owned Farm

 

The Burmese army has been forcing the civilian to work in the army-owned farms in Kankaw township of Western Burma, according to the testimony of U Kyaw Win (Name changed for security reason). A 48 year-old village headman from XXX village, U Kyaw Win testified to the CHRO field reporter that amidst claims by Burmese junta of having eradicated forced labor in Burma, the practice continues.

 

According to him, the Burmese army has a large plot of farm in the vicinity of Taung-khin-yin Village of Kankaw Township, Magwe division, Western Burma. The farm is operated under the supervision of army North Western Command since 1996.

 

From the beginning, villagers were forced to clear 15,000 acres of virgin land. Since then, forced labor never ceases in our area. From 1997 to 2001 the farm was operated under the command of Major Kyaw Soe of Light Infantry Battallion LIB 269 based in Tidim.

 

From March 2001, Major Kyaw Soe was replaced by Major Zaw Oo from Light Infantry Battalion LIB 226, based in Haka. Civilians from around the area have to work at the army farm from the time of sowing to harvesting time. Sometimes the soldiers are unsatisfied with the human labor, and forced laborers are made to bring along their bulls and buffaloes to work at the farm

 

This harvesting season (2001), civilians from Taung-khin-yin village, Tha-lin village, Shwebo village, Thin-taw village, Hnan-kha village, Min-tha village, Kung-ywa village, A-lay village and Ywa-ma villagers are among those forced to work at the army farm from June to Septermber¡̈

 

U Kyaw Win added that; besides the farm works, villagers have to do manual works for the army such as building the army barracks, cutting woods for the army, carrying waters and making furniture for the army officers.

 

( CHRO: interview U Kyaw Win on October 1, 2001 )

 

SPDC Troops Forced Chin Villagers To Serve as Porters

 

The Burmese army Light Infantry Battalion LIB 268 from Lentlang army camp, Tidim township of Chin state, forced 15 civilians from Lentlang village to serve as porter on September 8, 2001.

 

The porters were herded by Sergeant Tin Myint of LIB 268, and his troops from Lentlang village to Tio village of Falam township, Chin State. When they arrived to Tio village, the porters were forced to carry ration for the army. Overburdened, the porters could not carry the loads.

 

Thus, Sergeant Tin Myint demanded two more porters from Tio village. While the porters were packing the load, one soldier took a stick and started to beat the porters saying that they are too slow in packing the load. He stopped beating them only after an elder from Tio village begged the soldier to stop.

 

The next day, on September 9, 2001, Sergeant Tin Myint and his troops took another 15 porters from Tio village and forced them to carry army ammunition from Tio village to Lentlang army camp.

 

Ms. Nini (an eye witness of the incident), 29 years old villager from Tio village reported the incident to CHRO field worker on September 15 2001.

 

(CHRO note: the name Nini is not her real name. We changed the name to protect her identity for security reasons)

 

Forced Portering In Thantlang Twongship

 

Burmese Army Light Infantry Battalion LIB 274 and LIB 268 conducted a joint military operation in Thantlang township, Chin State in the month of August 2001. Commanding in charge of military intelligence unit in Chin State, Hla Myint Htun led the operation.

 

To aid in the supply needs during the operation, Hla Myint Htun and his troops arrested many civilians to serve as porters. The huge loads of army supplies, however, exceeded the availability of civilian porters. Thus, the troops demanded horses from the civilians to carry the loads.

 

The operation lasted for three weeks, and villagers from Thantlang township had to endure grueling conditions during the whole operations.

 

SPDC Soldier Robbed Villagers

 

Captain Hlaing Hlaing of Burmese Army Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) 274 Mindat battalion robbed 10000 Kyats from Pu Dun (Name change for security reason) of Pintia village of Matupi township, Chin State on August 25, 2001.

 

Pu Dun and his friends were traveling when they met with Captain Hlaing Hlaing and his troops. The soldiers stopped Pu Dun and his friends and search their bags and took 10000 Kyats from Pu Dun. The incident occurred at Khemu stream between Hlungmang and Zawngling village.

 

 

 

SPDC Lt. Colonel Demanded Solar Plate From Chin Villagers

 

The following report is provided by Pu Than Kip, a 60 year-old farmer from Lungcawi village of Matupi township in Chin State.

 

Commander of Light Infantry Battalion LIB 274 from Mindat, Lt. Colonel Maung Maung and his troops came to Lungcawi village to patrol around the India-Burma border on 24th August 2001. As soon as they arrived, the Lt. Colonel demanded 4 villagers to porter army supplies. Thus, the village headman has to quickly assemble the villagers to serve as porter. As most of the villagers were working at their farm at the time the army arrived, the village headman had to ask some elderly people to serve(including Pu Sui Kung 55 year old, who was sick at that timer) as porter to meet the Lt. Colonel demand.

 

Pu Sui Kung and three other villagers had to carry rations and ammunition for Lt. Colonel and his troops for four days. After four days, they came back to Lungcawi village on 28 August 2001.

 

While Lt. Colonel Maung Maung was in the village, the village headman and some village elders took the opportunity to ask him to give them permission for making a ferryboat to be used for crossing the Bawinu river, which separates India and Burma, for easy access to goods from the India side. Lungcawi area is so remote and isolated from major towns in Burma that it is easier for the villagers to get their commodity supplies from India.

 

Lt. Colonel told the villagers that if they give him a solar plate and 10000 Kyats, he would give them his permission. Thus the villagers bought a solar plate, which is worth 50000 Kyat and gave it to Lt. Colonel Maung Maung along with 10000 Kyats.

 

Civilians Forced to Repair Army Camp

 

Villagers from Matupi township of Chin State were forced to repair army camp in the month of September.

 

Captain Hlaing Hlaing of Burmese Army from Light Infantry Battalion LIB 274 based in Mindat ordered villagers from Sabawgte area to repair Sabawngte army camp.

 

Nine persons from Pintia village, 10 villagers from Hlungmang village, 10 villagers from Sabawngpi village, and 8 villagers from Tawnglalung village have to repair the fence of Sabawngte army camp from September 10 to 15, 2001.

 

The work started from 6 AM to 5 PM every day. The villagers have to carry their own tools and rations.

 

During the third day of their work, 14 year-old boy laborer from Pintia village got bitten by a snake. Even though there is a military medic present in the army camp, the boy did not get any treatment from the army. Thus, villagers treated him with traditional method and carried him to his village.

 

One village elder said that there was an order issued by the home ministry to prohibiting the practice of forced labor, but the army still used forced labor and called civilian for porter whenever they needed. “It is very difficult to make a living here. We spend most of our labor working for the army”̈ said the villager.

 

SPDC Soldiers Looted From Civilians

 

The Burmese military launched offensive against the Chin National Front, the armed opposition group, in the month of August and September. Thus, the Burmese military forced many people to serve as porters during the operation.

 

A Captain ( name not known ) from Light Infantry Battalion LIB 268 Falam battalion established a temporary command camp at Ngaphaipi village, Thantlang towship during the military operation. One 21 August 2001, the Captain ordered Fartlang village, Khuapilu village, La-u village, Ngaphaipi village, that each village must bring two tins of rice, five chickens and 8600 Kyats to the camp.

 

Similarly, Captain Myo Kyaw Htun, Company commander from LIB 274 Vuangtu army camp established temporary army camp between Lungcawipi and Ngaphaipi village. As the camp was on the trade route to Mizoram State of India, Captain Myo Kyaw Htun looted 300000 Kyats from cattle traders on 28 August 2001.

 

One of the Cattle traders reported the incident to CHRO on 15 September 2001.

 

 

 

Can’t Afford Identity Card

 

In the area around the townships of Tamu and Kalay of Sagaing Division, Western Burma, people are being required to pay a cost of 40,00 Kyats in order to obtain a national identity card. Ordinary citizens such as farmers are finding it difficult to afford the high cost. Possession of national identity card is a mandatory requirement for every Burmese citizen, which must be carried along at all times.

 

A person has to pay 4000 Kyats in Burmese currency to the department of immigration in order to be issued the national identity card. If the card is destroyed or lost, an additional 6000 Kyats have to be paid to the department for issuance of a new card.

 

Unable to afford the cost, most farmers have to get reference letter from the village headman whenever they travel, as a temporary substitute for the card. The reference letter is valid up to three months from the date of issue. Village headmen are charging 250 Kyats per reference letter per person. If the immigration department finds out that someone is using expired document, he/she is subject to fine up to 1500 Kyats to 2000 Kyats.

 

In Burma, registration for national identity card is made mandatory to every citizen and everyone must carry it with him or her at all times especially when traveling. Travelers or visitors have to report their presence to the village or township authority in which they are visiting. Immigration officials and military intelligence conduct door-to-door surprise and random checks at night. Anyone found without proper guest registration or without identity card is subject to fine or arrest.

 

Burmese Army Force Chin Civilians to Sell Liquor

 

Chin Christian villages from Thantlang Township, Chin State were forced to sell liquor by the Burmese army in September 2001.

 

The order to sell liquor was signed by Captain Myo Kyaw Htun, commander of Vuangtu army camp, of Light Infantry Battalion LIB 274, known as Mindat battalion.

 

Captain Myo Kyaw Htun ordered villages headmen from 28 villages to come to Vuangtu army camp without fail for an important meeting. When the villages¡| headmen, except the headman of Banawhtlang village who was absent, came to Vuangtu army camp, he ordered that each village headman have to sell 48 bottles of liquor in their village as the rate of 120 Kyats per bottle.

 

The Captain was outraged due to the absence of the headman of Banawhtlang in the meeting. Thus, he sent a warning letter to the headman of Banawhtlang village that if he could not give satisfactory explanation for failing to come to the meeting, he will be automatically considered as a strong supporter of Chin National Front and the army will take necessary action against his village.

 

The warning of the Burmese Captain terrified all the villagers. Pu Thang Ling 54 year old village elder from Banawhtlang village said that the reason their village could not go to the meeting was due to the fact that the village was facing shortage of food and village elders were busy managing to get food for the village.

 

 

 

“You Must Play Soccer” Said SPDC Captain

 

Captain Myo Kyaw Htun, commander of Vuangtu army camp from Thantlang towship Chin State issued an order that there be a soccer tournament at Vuangtu village on August 14, 2001. He ordered 28 villages from Thantlang towship to participate in the tournament.

 

The villagers have to bring their own foods and all necessary accessories for the tournament. In addition, each village is ordered to pay 2500 Kyats to the Captain as an admission fee to the competition. He further decreed that selling of liquor during the tournament is compulsory.

 

Even though August is the busiest time for farmers in Chin State, the villagers do not dare to deny the order and the entire villages, except for Banawhtlang village, were compelled to participate in the competition.

 

Enraged by the absence of Banawhtlang village, Captain Myo Kyaw Htun sent a warning letter saying that the village headman have to explain in person the reason why they did not participate in the tournament. Besides, Banawhtlang village still have to pay 2500 Kyats admission fee, 3 bags of rice and a pig (a big one), despite their absense.

 

The headman of Banawhtlang village was so scared to meet with the Captain. So he asked Lulpilung village headman Pu Biak Mang to meet Captain Myo Kyaw Htun on his behalf. Thus, Banawhtlang village sent 10000 Kyats to the Captain through Pu Biak Mang. Pu Biak Mang explained to the Captain that Banawhtalng village were facing food shortage and they were in great trouble and he asked the Captain to reconsider his order regarding Banawhtlang village.

 

The Captain took 10000 Kyats and told Pu Biak Mang that Banawhtlang village have to send 5000 more kyats and a chicken.

 

List of Villages Ordered to Participate in the soccer tournament

 

Banawhtlang, Lulpilung, Salen, Tikir A, Tikir B, Tlangrua A, Tlangrua B, Zephai A, Zephai B, Ngalang, Belhar, Lawngtlang A, Lawngtlang B, Hriphi A, Hriphi B, Vomkua, Khuabung A, Khuabung B, Zabung, Hlam Phei, Hmunhalh, Hriangkhan, Thao, Fartlang, Lungcawi, Ngaphaipi, Ngaphaite, and Lailen.

 

Order Sent by Vuangtu Army Camp Commander to Banawhtlang Village

 

( CHRO translated it from original Burmese )

 

Order

 

To.

 

Banawhtlang village

 

All the youth representatives have a meeting on 28 July 2001. Even though Banawhtlang village have received the order, they failed to come to the meeting. This letter is to inform you that there will be a soccer tournament at Vuangtu army camp on 14 August 2001. You must bring 3 bags of rice, a ball and a pig.

 

Admission fee: 2500 Kyats

 

First Prize : 15000 Kyats

 

Second Prize : 10000 Kyats

 

Third Prize : 7000 Kyats

 

Sd./

 

Company commander

 

Vuangtu Camp

 

To.

 

Village headman

 

Banawhtlang village

 

Date 29. 7. 2001

 

You failed to obey my order to send the youth from your village. We sent you several orders to come to the camp, but still ignored the order of the army. The army considered you and your village as strong supporter of the underground Chin National Front. As soon as you get this order, you must come to the camp without fail. If you fail to come to the camp, I have to report the case to my superior and will take necessary actions.

 

Sd./

 

Company commander

 

Vuangtu Camp

 

 

 

ICRC Suggests Some Prisoners Not Relevant To Hard Labor

 

November 2, 2001

 

Some of the prisoners are going to be sent back to original prisons from hard labor camps of number one “new life project” near Indo-Burma border due to suggestion of International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

 

Local Burmese doctors will under take the prisoners from Thanan, Myothit, Bandula and Razagyo number two camps a medical check up before ICRC’s visit to these camps. Those who are not in suitable health conditions will be sent back to original prisons for food substitution, rest and medical treatments, mentioned in an order released by Directorate of Prison Affairs under Ministry of Home Affairs on October 25.

 

Prisoners who are in good health from Kalay prison will be replaced in these sent back prisoners, also mentioned in the order.

 

ICRC visited to so call “New Life Projects” in Kabal valley near Indo-Burma border from September 1 to September 19 and suggested more than 130 prisoners in these camps were not suitable for the hard labor. The ICRC delegation visited Oak-pho, Sayasan and Razagyo number one camps in the same new life project number one.

 

More than 120 prisoners from these three camps were sent back to their original prisons and about 200 prisoners from Monywa prison were replaced in the camps, NMG reported in a previous article.

 

Although ICRC visited and suggested for better situation in hard labor camps, five prisoners from Razagyo number one camp ran away on October 25, while they were doing their work under tight security. The security guards rearrested those run away prisoners and beat them, a source from Indo-Burma border reported. All of five prisoners as well as other 6 who were alleged to discuss for escape were put in shackles and halters.

 

ICRC made two visits during September to hard labor camps and made suggestion on the situation of the camps, mentioned in leaked reports. ICRC found out that the food given to prisoners were not good enough in both quality and quantity, drinking water is not safe, prisoners do not get rest including who suffering from illnesses, improper health care system and prisoners are frequently beaten. ICRC suggested to prison authorities of Burma to improve these conditions, NMG learnt from the reports leaked out.

 

All together eight “New Life Projects”, all over Burma, were opened for the prisoners, who are charged for imprisonment with hard labor, with the instruction of Senior General Than Shwe in 1994.

 

Burmese regime is using these labors to implement its long-term agricultural projects. The mortality rate in these hard labor camps ranges from 24 to 30 percent because of continuous hard labor, malaria and insufficient food, according to the prison authorities reports.

 

Network Media Group

 

Letter & Press Release:

 

Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s Letter To The Burmese Regime

 

11 December 2001

 

Senior General Than Shwe

 

State Peace and Development Council

 

Ministry of Defense

 

Signal Pagoda Road

 

Yangon, Myanmar

 

Dear General Than Shwe,

 

We were gratified to learn of your public statements in response to our call for the release of our colleague Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest, full respect for the human rights of the citizens of your country and agreement to extend confidence building talks with Aung San Suu Kyi to include dialogue with the leaders of political parties and ethnic minorities.

 

It is heartening to learn of your belief that we are all on “the winning side” in that we share “the common objective of creating Myanmar to become a fully functioning democracy.” Your statement declared: “Today we are in the process of joining hands walking on the same path toward our common objective while successfully maintaining the hard-won peace stability and national unity.”

 

We are concerned with the misunderstanding that you report exists between the National League for Democracy and the Government of Myanmar. We are of the strong belief that misunderstandings can best be resolved through open and respectful dialogue. We are willing and prepared to support this process in any way. To do so, we would like to meet with you at your earliest convenience. We respectfully request that you agree to welcome a delegation of Nobel Peace Laureates to your country so that we might meet with you and your colleagues as well as with our colleague, Aung San Suu Kyi.

 

We sincerely believe that the “path toward our common objective” to which you refer can be made more open by your willingness to agree to release Aung San Suu Kyi and all political detainees immediately. It will also be enhanced by your agreement to move forward with a genuine and substantive dialogue that includes leaders of political parties and ethnic minorities with the aim of achieving national reconciliation and the restoration of democracy.

 

Such action will not only move your nation closer to realizing the common goal of a fully functioning democracy, but also to considerably enhancing your standing in the world. We look forward to supporting you in this process and to the full integration of Burma into the international community.

 

Sincerely and respectfully yours,

 

Archbishop Desmond M. Tutu

 

Chair, Nobel Peace Laureate Campaign for Aung San Suu Kyi

 

And the People of Burma

 

 

 

Burma’s Democracy Leader Still Under House Arrest, Ten Years After Winning Nobel Peace Prize

 

For Immediate Release

 

Aung San Suu Kyi urges end to Canadian investment in Burma because of dictatorship’s human rights abuses, collaboration with heroin traffickers

 

OTTAWA, December 7, 2001. Ten years ago on December 10, Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of Burma’s democracy movement, won the Nobel Peace Prize for her remarkable non-violent struggle against one of the world’s worst military dictatorships. Today, she continues her struggle, while waiting for her chance to take the office she legally won, in a landslide general election, more than a decade ago.

 

Aung San Suu Kyi’s party, the National League for Democracy, won an overwhelming victory in her country’s democratic elections in 1990. But instead of handing over the reins of government, Burma’s military rulers illegally nullified the election results and kept Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest where she has spent most of her time since 1989.

 

In the ten years since then, the military regime has earned continuous international condemnation for its widespread use of forced labour, its violent campaign against ethnic minorities, and its complicity in the multi-billion-dollar heroin trade. As a result, the dictatorship is an international pariah with few friends.

 

But in spite of these abuses, the dictatorship remains firmly in power. An important reason for this is that only one country, the United States, has imposed sanctions against investing in Burma. With no firm rules prohibiting investment in Burma, companies from most countries, including Canada, are free to choose for themselves.

 

In a video smuggled out of Burma in 1999, Aung San Suu Kyi addressed the people of Canada, thanking them for their continued support of Burma’s democracy movement. She also repeated her call for Canadians not to do business in Burma, stressing that “investment only benefits the military authorities and their allies…we do not think that investment in our country at this time can do our country any good.”

 

She has a good point. Foreign companies investing in Burma are usually steered into joint ventures with state-owned enterprises, which are run by the generals. Some Canadian companies have heeded Aug San Suu Kyi’s urging to cut business ties with the Burmese military dictatorship. These companies include Wal-Mart Canada, Sears Canada, and The Bay.

 

However, many other Canadian companies continue to do business with the Burmese military. One of these, Marshall Macklin Monaghan (MMM) Ltd. of Toronto, helped to build the Mandalay airport, even though the military forcibly relocated villagers who lived near the site, and forced other local villagers to help build the road to the airport.

 

Another Canadian company, Ivanhoe Mines, which is in a 50-50 partnership with the dictatorship in the largest foreign mining operation in Burma, is a likely beneficiary of the regime’s use of forced labour. Testimony from local villagers indicates that the military forcibly relocated people from a total of eight villages in order to make way for the Monywa mine.

 

Although the Canadian government officially discourages investment in Burma, in reality Ivanhoe receives generous tax incentives for the Monywa mine operation.

 

Aung San Suu Kyi’s call for sanctions against the dictatorship echoes that of Nelson Mandela, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and others, in their successful struggle against the South African apartheid regime. Last November, the International Labour Organization (ILO) called on its members, which include Canada, to review their connections with Burma to make sure they are not helping to perpetuate the system of forced labour there. Reports to the ILO say that it is impossible to carry out business in Burma without benefiting from or perpetuating the country’s distinct brand of slavery to which hundreds of thousands of its citizens are subjected each year.

 

Although Burma is thousands of kilometres away, literally on the other side of the planet, Canadians pay a heavy—and direct—social price because of the failure to impose comprehensive sanctions against the military dictatorship. According to the RCMP, most of the heroin imported to Canada comes from Burma. In spite of strong international pressure to stop the heroin trade, the Burmese generals allow convicted drug lords to live freely and even to launder drug money through state-owned banks.

 

The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, launched fifty years ago, signaled the beginning of the end of Japan’s military expansion in China and Southeast Asia. Four years later, the defeat of the Japanese empire heralded a hopeful new era for the people of the region. And yet, over fifty years after Japan’s defeat, Burma still suffers under a dictatorship every bit as harsh and arbitrary as the Japanese occupation. And, like the Afghan Taliban regime, it is universally known as a corrupt and brutal collection of thugs who condone, and even profit from, the sale of heroin to the west.

 

As people across Canada prepare to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Aung San Suu

 

Kyi, winning the Nobel Peace Prize, they will also reflect on the inconsistency of Canadian policy toward rogue states.

 

At a time when the international community is working to strengthen money-laundering laws to fight terrorism, the military regime in Burma still makes it possible to launder profits from the drug industry. And notorious Burmese drug lords, indicted in the United States, continue to live freely and comfortably under Rangoon’s wing. Aung San Suu Kyi’s supporters across Canada call for her immediate and unconditional release, as well as the release of all other political prisoners in Burma. When this happens, there can be tripartite dialogue between the NLD, Burma’s military regime, and ethnic minority representatives.

 

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the South African Nobel Peace Laureate and a prominent opponent of the former apartheid regime, has urged the international community and fellow Nobel Peace Laureates to salute and support Burma’s democracy leader and the people of Burma in their non-violent struggle for human rights and democracy.

 

Canadians will join Burma supporters all over the world in marking this important anniversary. There will be celebrations in Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Edmonton, and Ottawa.

 

For more information, please contact:

 

Canadian Friends of Burma, Ottawa, (613) 237-8056.

 

 

 

Facts & Arguments:

 

Canadian Ties To Burma’s Dictatorship

 

Although Burma is thousands of kilometres away, Canadians are very much connected to this Southeast Asian country of 50 million people. Ever since Burma’s military regime opened the country up to foreign trade and investment in 1989 for the first time in three decades, Canada’s corporate sector has been conducting business there. These commercial links have increased steadily over the past decade, rising sharply in the past few years to over $300 million of investment and $60 million worth of trade at the present time.

 

Burma’s Nobel Peace Laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi has called on the international community not to do business in her country under the current military regime. Leader of the National League for Democracy, which won an overwhelming victory in the country’s 1990 national elections, Aung San Suu Kyi stresses that foreign business only props up the military dictatorship and does not help the majority of Burma’s citizens.

 

More recently, reports to the ILO say that it is impossible to carry out business in Burma without benefiting from or perpetuating the country’s distinct brand of slavery to which hundreds of thousands of citizens are subjected each year. In response to this problem, last November, the International Labour Organization (ILO) called on its members, which include Canada, to review their connections with Burma to make sure they are not helping to foster the system of forced labour there.

 

Most of the heroin that comes into Canada originates in Burma according to the RCMP. Heroin has had devastating effects on people=s lives in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal. The military dictatorship does not just turn a blind eye to the heroin traffic, it supports by letting convicted drug lords roam free and by allowing heroin profits to be laundered through state-owned banks controlled by the military regime. Moreover, the report Out of Control 2, produced by the Southeast Asian Information Network identifies heroin refineries that are located next to army bases and others, which are partially-owned by senior Burmese military generals.

 

Canadian Policy:

 

Although concerned with the deteriorating human rights situation in Burma, the Government of Canada continues to allow Canadian business in Burma. In August 1997, Canada removed Burma’s preferential tariff eligibility and restricted Canadian exports to Burma, to encourage the military regime to enter into meaningful dialogue with the leaders of the democracy movement.

 

Despite these measures, imports to Canada from Burma have more than tripled in the past four years. Last year’s import value of $60.794 million was more than double the value of the previous year (Industry Canada).

 

The Canadian government imposes absolutely no restriction on investment, which has shot up to over $300 million to date mostly in Burma’s mining and gas sectors. CFOB’s most recent research indicates that, since 1997, at least 11 new Canadian companies have invested in or expanded already-existing investment in Burma[1]. The Government of Canada maintainsthat with regard to investment, their hands are tied because of the Special Economic Mea! sures Act (SEMA). The recent ILO resolution, however, now fully justifies triggering the SEMA to ban investment.[2]

 

Canadian Corporations in Burma:

 

The largest foreign mining venture in Burma, Ivanhoe Mines, is registered in Canada’s Yukon to take advantage of generous tax incentives provided by the Territorial government. Invanhoe is involved in a copper mine, which is a 50/50 joint venture with Burma’s military controlled Mining Enterprise No.1″.

 

In research conducted by CFOB, testimony was received from Burmese villagers[3] stating that eight villages were forcibly relocated in June 2000 to make way for the Monywa copper mine’s expansion. Ivanhoe has already invested $150 million in the project and is looking for a further $400 million for its expansion. In addition, nearly one million workers toiled on the building of a railway line from Monywa to the district centre of Pakokku, while another 5,000 villagers had to contribute their labour to the irrigation development around the Thazi dam near Monywa. The proximity of these infrastructur! e projects to the mine would make it extremely difficult for Ivanhoe to avoid benefitting from forced labour.

 

Another significant Canadian commercial venture in Burma is the $24 million contract that Canadian Helicopters International signed in 1997 for five years involving two aircraft operating from Rangoon and a third remotely operated. Previously, CHC provided helicopter services for a French oil company named Total, for its work on the Yadana pipeline which was constructed with the help of forced labour.[4]

 

Currently, one of Total Oil’s foreign partners in the project, the American oil giant, Unocal, is being sued by 14 villagers who had been living in the vicinity of the pipeline and suffered terrible abuses by the military regime in connection with the project’s construction and security. In September 2001, a US Federal Court judge stated that evidence suggested Unocal knew about and benefitted from forced labour on the pipeline.

 

Forced Labour in Burma: A Modern Form of Slavery

 

One of the most pervasive human rights violations in Burma is the military regime’s system of forced labour. Called a modern form of slavery, by the United Nations, International Labour Organization (ILO), forced labour is used on a multitude of construction projects in numerous industries, from repairing tourist sites to carrying artillery for the army during military offensives.

 

The ILO took the strongest action it has ever taken towards a member country, against Burma, due to the country’s forced labour situation. In November 2000, the ILO called on its members, which include Canada, to review their connections with Burma to ensure that they are not helping to perpetuate the system of forced labour there. Reports to the ILO state that it is impossible to carry out business in Burma without benefitting from or perpetuating the country’s distinct brand of slavery to which hundreds of thousands of its citizens are subjected each year.

 

Generally any person in Burma can be forced into hard labour at any time by military authorities, men, women, children, the elderly, the sick and pregnant women. Forced labour is often accompanied by beatings, rape, deprivation of food, rest, and medical care.

 

ILO Report on Forced Labour:

 

After 30 years of criticism by the ILO of forced labour in Burma, in 1997, a commission of inquiry was set up to discover the facts. In July 1998, they released their findings in a 392 page document distilled from nearly 10,000 pages of testimonies and eye witness reports.

 

A year after the report was published, the military had still not taken any measures to fulfil the report’s recommendations to address the widespread use of forced labour. Therefore, in an unprecedented move, the ILO banned Burma from future meetings and from any future support until the regime takes significant steps towards positive change.

 

Report Excerpts:

 

There is abundant evidence before the Commission showing the pervasive use of forced labour imposed on the civilian population of Myanmar by the authorities and the military for portering, construction, maintenance and servicing of military camps, other work in support of the military, work on agriculture, logging and other production projects undertaken by the authorities or the military, sometimes for the profit of private individuals, the construction and maintenance of roads, railways, and bridges, and other infrastructure work..

 

… it appears that unfettered powers of military and government officers to exact forced labour from the civilian population are taken for granted…the manifold exactions of forced labour often give rise to the extortion of money…also to threats to life and security, extrajudicial punishment, physical abuse, beatings, torture, rape and murder.

 

Forced labour in Myanmar is almost never remunerated or compensated, secret directives notwithstanding, but on the contrary often goes hand in hand with the exaction of money, food and other supplies from the civilian population.

 

All the information and evidence before the Commission shows utter disregard for the safety and health as well as the basic needs of the people performing forced or compulsory labour…

 

A state which supports, instigates, accepts or tolerates forced labour on its territory commits a wrongful act…Whatever may be the position in national law…any person who violates the prohibition of recourse to forced labour under the Convention is guilty of an international crime, that is also, if committed in a widespread or systematic manner, a crime against humanity.

 

The Commission considers…the establishment of a government freely chosen by the people and the submission of all public authorities to the rule of law are, in practice indispensable prerequisites for the suppression of forced labour in Myanmar.

 

This report reveals a saga of untold misery and suffering, oppression and exploitation of large sections of the population. The government, the military and the administration seem oblivious to the human rights of the people, their actions gravely offend human dignity and have a debasing effect on the civil society, where human rightsare denied or violated in any part of the world it is bound to have a chain effect on other parts of the world and it is therefore of vital interest to the international community.

 

Burma’s Illicit Drug Economy

 

Since the ascendance of the current military regime in 1988, Burma has become one of the world’s largest suppliers of heroin. The current military regime profits from, protects and supports Burma’s illicit drug industry.

 

The regime allows notorious Burmese drug lords, such as Khun Sa and Lo Hsing Han, to operate as legitimate businessmen in Burma. The South East Asian Information Network (SAIN) in a 1998 report, listed five army regiments with headquarters or outposts alongside heroin refineries. It reports that bulk heroin exports from the refinery at Paletwa in north-west Burma were carried by army helicopter into Bangladesh, there being no roads for transportation. Dr. Desmond Ball, an Australian researcher, identified in 1999 three infantry battalions that, between them were maintaining six heroin refineries along the drug routes in north-eastern Burma. He also identifies senior generals that were part owners of heroin refineries at the time of his research.

 

Money Laundering:

 

Desperate for foreign currency, the Burmese military regime has created legislation that helps launder the proceeds of drugs. In levying a 40 per cent tax rate on declared assets, the regime makes no inquiry into the source of the assets. Moreover, Burma’s military junta openly allows profits from the drug trade to be channeled through military-controlled companies such as banks and the Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprises. As a result of this money laundering, illicit drug profits permeate Burma’s economy.

 

In such an environment, foreign companies have no way to ensure their operations in Burma are clean. A prime example of this problem was the case of Wal-Mart Canada, which was found in 2000 to be importing from a clothing company in Burma owned by the notorious drug lord Lo Hsing Han.

 

Burma Heroin in Canada:

 

Canadians are not immune from the scourge of Burma’s heroin trade. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police RCMP states that most of the heroin coming into Canada originates in Burma. Meanwhile, heroin has had devastating effects on people’s lives in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal. Therefore, Canadian companies which support Burma’s military regime through their business there, are inevitably and ironically contributing to social problems in Canada.

 

In 1997, Burma was responsible for about 60 per cent of the word’s supply of heroin. Production of raw opium exceeded 2500 tonnes, or more than double the yield in 1988 when the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC), the forerunner of the SPDC took power. Opium poppy cultivation in Burma has also increased from some 92,300 hectares to more than 200,000 under the SPDC (Dr. Desmond Ball,”Burma and Drugs: The Regime’s Complicity in the global drug trade! ” in Asia-Pacific Magazine, No.14, 1999).

 

The regime has created legislation which helps launder the proceeds of drugs. The Burmese regime levies a 40 % tax rate on declared assets other than real property, but as long a! s the tax is paid, there is no inquiry into the source of the assets (US State Department, 1998). Also banks launder dubious money in exchange for a 25 % to 40% fee. In 1996, there was US $250 million of unexplained investment attracted by the scheme (The IMF and the UN Conference on Trade and Development in the Sunday Times [London] May 10, 1998).

 

Money laundering and the return of narcotic profits laundered elsewhere are very significant factors in the overall Burmeseeconomy and are officially sanctioned by the junta. The SPDC openly allows profits from the drug trade to be channeled into private and public enterprises through Burma’s national company, the Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprises (MOGE) and the banks. (Leslie Kean and Dennis Bernstein, People of the Opiate in the Nation, Dec. 16, 1996).

 

A study by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) cites large expenditures unaccounted for by the junta: Despite the fact that Burma’s foreign exchange reserves from 1991-1993 were only approximately $300 million, the SLORC purchased arms worth $1.2 billion during the period (The Nation, Dec. 1996).!

 

A Unless there is a democratically elected civilian government that can win the support of all the Burmese people, including the ethnic minorities, progress on the drug front will be impossible. (Michael Jendrzejeczyk, Director of Human Rights Watch/Asia, the New York Times, Feb.12, 1993).

 

A major dimension of the corruption [of the military dictatorship in Burma] is the involvement of the regime – from the most senior members of the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) which rules the country, down to infantry soldiers stationed in border areas – in drug trafficking. (Dr. Desmond Ball, Burma and Drugs: The Regime’s Complicity in the global drug trade in Asia-Pacific Magazine, No.14, 1999).

 

# The opium-heroin trade in Burma is a sophisticated, world-wide multi-billion dollar business which requires a large infrastructure, especially for refining, transporting and protecting the product, from Burma’s borders to its neighbouring countries. (Dr. Chao-Tzang Yawnghwe, The War on Drugs and Drug Policies; paper distributed at the International Conference on Drugs, 1996).

 

# US anti-drug assistance to the Burmese government has failed in the past, and in the last four years Burmese authorities have made no discernible effort to improve their performance…SLORC has been part of the problem, not the solution. (Robert S. Gelbard, former US assistant secretary of state for international narcotics and law-enforcement affairs, Far Eastern Economic Review, Nov.21, 1996).

 

The United States: We are increasingly concerned that Burma’s drug traffickers, with official encouragement, are laundering their profits through Burmese banks and companies–some of which are joint ventures with foreign businesses.It is hard to imagine a lasting solution to this region’s narcotics problem without a lasting solution to Burma’s political crisis. (Madeleine Albright, US Secretary of State, Jul.1997).

 

Britain: Burma is the largest single world producer of opium, and it has achieved that infamous position precisely because it has a government that does not act against the drug barons. It is not only a deeply repressive regime, but is also a deeply irresponsible regime in that it is one of the few governments in the world whose members are prepared to profit out of the drugs trade rather than to seek to suppress it (Robin Cook, British Foreign Secretary, South-China Morning Post, Sept.2,1998).

 

Thailand: Thai anti-narcotics officials have been quoted as saying that the Burmese military are actively supporting the United Wa State Army believed to be one of the main drug trafficking organizations in the Golden Triangle (The BBC, Jul 25,1999)

 

Burma’s Military-Controlled Economy

 

International investment may help open societies and bring democratic change in some countries. In Burma, however, foreign investment helps perpetuate the cruelty of a repressive unelected junta. While the majority of Burmese receive no benefit from foreign enterprise, foreign exchange allows the military to maintain its rule by force of arms.

 

The military regime’s own figures state that expenditure on defence since 1988 to the present had increased from 22.35 per cent to49.93 per cent. During the same period, spending on health-care and education had dropped from 4.71 per cent and 12.9 per cent to 2.53 and 6.98, respectively.

 

Full foreign ownership of companies operating in Burma is generally forbidden and almost all large investment in Burma is carried out through joint ventures with the military regime, notably the Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings (UMEH). The UMEH is owned in part (40%) by the Defense Ministry’s Directorate of Procurement, whose main function is to import armaments. The other 60% of UMEH shares is reserved for active and retired military officers, army-owned business enterprises and friendship societies, including veteran groups.

 

Since the ascendance of the current military regime in 1988, Burma has become one of the world’s largest suppliers of heroin. This very fact is just one of the many examples that point to the regime’s profiting, protection and support of Burma’s illicit drug industry.

 

The regime allows notorious Burmese drug lords, such as Khun Sa and Lo Hsing Han, to operate as legitimate businessmen in Burma. The South East Asian Information Network (SAIN) in a 1998 report, listed five army regiments with headquarters or outposts alongside heroin refineries. It reports that bulk heroin exports from the refinery at Paletwa in north-west Burma were carried by army helicopter into Bangladesh, there being no roads for transportation. Dr. Desmond Ball, an Australian researcher, identified in 1999 three infantry battalions that, between them were maintaining six heroin refineries along the drug routes in north-eastern Burma. He also identifies senior generals that were part owners of heroin refineries at the time of his research.

 

Nobel Peace Laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi and her democratically elected National League for Democracy have been calling for sanctions against their own country since it became obvious that foreign investment was only benefiting the military authorities and their allies. In a video smuggled out of Burma in August 1999, Aung San Suu Kyi stated that:

 

“We do not think that investment in our country at this time can do our country any good…Investment made at the right time in the right way could be of enormous benefit not only to the people of Burma but to thos who are investing in Burma. But that time has not yet come.”

 

Just as the South African anti-apartheid movement called for economic sanctions against their own country, Burma’s democracy movement is calling for an end to foreign financial support to the brutal military dictatorship.

 

The Situation of Women in Burma

 

Like all their fellow citizens, Burma’s women face the day-to-day struggle of life under military rule in Burma. But the country’s women also face particular problems and abuse on account of their gender. Apart from the general maltreatment and discrimination directed against women in their society, Burmese women and girls, especially in ethnic minority areas, are faced with the constant danger of being raped or trafficked into the sex industry.

 

Sexual Assault:

 

Women are subjected to rape and other sexual assaults in a variety of contexts; in their villages and fields; during flight; while they are serving as forced labourers or forced porters for the army; and under assorted pretexts in which soldiers abuse their authority and claim to be checking women’s documents. Women are raped by Burmese soldiers in their own homes, while they are internally displaced, and while they are on their way to seek refuge in neighbouring countries. These abuses have escalated over the past decade under because soldiers have become used to taking what they want under the current military regime which allows them to do so with impunity. (See School of Rape by Earthrights In! ternational, Convention for the Elimination of Violence Against Women Shadow Report)

 

Trafficking into Sex Industry:

 

The burgeoning sex industry in Burma and trafficking of Burmese women to Thailand and other countries also gives rise to enormous health difficulties, most notably HIV and AIDS. As well, Burmese sex workers (often coerced into the industry) in Burma, in Thailand, India and Bangladesh suffer from high rates of sexually transmitted disease and are often victims of beatings and other physical assaults.

 

An estimated 80,000 women from Burma are engaged in prostitution in Thailand. Along the Thai-Burma border, agents recruit women with false promises of providing them with employment or legal resident status in Thailand or force them into prostitution under threats to their lives. Many brothels are surrounded by electric fences and armed guards to avoid escape. They rarely have access to heath care or HIV education. Their rate of HIV infection is much higher than among Thai prostitutes.

 

Women’s Health:

 

Maternal motility rate in 1993 was 140 per 100,000 live births. In 1987, abortions accounted for 52 per cent of all registered maternal deaths. Though the practice is illegal in Burma, induced abortion is resorted to in the absence of knowledge and other means for family planning. Other causes of high material mortality are malaria, malnutrition,goiter, severe anemia, sexually transmitted diseases and the limited coverage of trained birth attendants in remote areas.

 

According to UNICEF, the national infant mortality rate in 1996 was 105 per live births, which can be compared to 33 in Vietnam, 31 in Thailand and 11 in Malaysia. One million children are reportedly malnourished. 9 to 12 percent of them severely so. The high rate of babies with birth weight below 2,300 grams is probably reflection of the high malnutrition levels among pregnant women. Under the current regime which took power in 1988, these figures have likely increased since health care has deteriorated significantly. Moreover, this data is not completely accurate because it does! not include information from Burma’s ethnic civil war areas, where health conditions are even worse, because UN agencies and international non-governmental organizations have limited access.

 

[1]Ivanhoe Mines, Aeroground Group Services, Cavern International Industries, East Asia Gold Corporation, First Dynasty Mines, International Bio-Recovery, Leeward Capital Corp, Marshall Macklin Monaghan, Northrock Resources, Prime Resources Management, Suzuki Canada

 

[2]This is because the ILO resolution responds to the Act=s allowance that a resolution from an international body, such as the United Nations, empowers such an action. AThe Governor in Council may, for the purpose of implementing a decision, resolution or recommendation of an international organization of states or association of states, o! f which Canada is a member, that calls on its members to take economic measures against a foreign state.

 

[3]Individual identities are not disclosed to protect their security

 

[4]ATotal Denial [email protected] by Earthrights International, 2000

 

 

VOLUME IV.NO.VI. NOVEMBER-DECEMBER 2001

Contents:

SPDC uses Forced Labor in Army Owned Farm

SPDC Troops Forced Chin Villagers To Serve as Porters

Forced Portering In Thantlang Twongship

SPDC Soldier Robbed Villagers

SPDC Lt. Colonel Demanded Solar Plate From Chin Villagers

Civilians Forced to Repair Army Camp

SPDC Soldiers Looted From Civilians

Can’t Afford Identity Card

Burmese Army Force Chin Civilians to Sell Liquor

” You Must Play Soccer” Said SPDC Captain

ICRC Suggests Some Prisoners Not Relevant to Hard Labour

LETTER & PRESS RELEASE:

Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s Letter to The Burmese Regime

Burma’s Democracy Leader Still Under House Arrest, Ten Years After Winning Noble Peace Price

FACTS & ARGUMENTS:

Canadian Ties to Burma’s Dictatorship

HUMAN RIGHTS:

SPDC uses Forced Labor in Army Owned Farm

The Burmese army has been forcing the civilian to work in the army-owned farms in Kankaw township of Western Burma, according to the testimony of U Kyaw Win (Name changed for security reason). A 48 year-old village headman from XXX village, U Kyaw Win testified to the CHRO field reporter that amidst claims by Burmese junta of having eradicated forced labor in Burma, the practice continues.

According to him, the Burmese army has a large plot of farm in the vicinity of Taung-khin-yin Village of Kankaw Township, Magwe division, Western Burma. The farm is operated under the supervision of army North Western Command since 1996.

From the beginning, villagers were forced to clear 15,000 acres of virgin land. Since then, forced labor never ceases in our area. From 1997 to 2001 the farm was operated under the command of Major Kyaw Soe of Light Infantry Battallion LIB 269 based in Tidim.

From March 2001, Major Kyaw Soe was replaced by Major Zaw Oo from Light Infantry Battalion LIB 226, based in Haka. Civilians from around the area have to work at the army farm from the time of sowing to harvesting time. Sometimes the soldiers are unsatisfied with the human labor, and forced laborers are made to bring along their bulls and buffaloes to work at the farm

This harvesting season (2001), civilians from Taung-khin-yin village, Tha-lin village, Shwebo village, Thin-taw village, Hnan-kha village, Min-tha village, Kung-ywa village, A-lay village and Ywa-ma villagers are among those forced to work at the army farm from June to Septermber¡̈

U Kyaw Win added that; besides the farm works, villagers have to do manual works for the army such as building the army barracks, cutting woods for the army, carrying waters and making furniture for the army officers.

( CHRO: interview U Kyaw Win on October 1, 2001 )

SPDC Troops Forced Chin Villagers To Serve as Porters

The Burmese army Light Infantry Battalion LIB 268 from Lentlang army camp, Tidim township of Chin state, forced 15 civilians from Lentlang village to serve as porter on September 8, 2001.

The porters were herded by Sergeant Tin Myint of LIB 268, and his troops from Lentlang village to Tio village of Falam township, Chin State. When they arrived to Tio village, the porters were forced to carry ration for the army. Overburdened, the porters could not carry the loads.

Thus, Sergeant Tin Myint demanded two more porters from Tio village. While the porters were packing the load, one soldier took a stick and started to beat the porters saying that they are too slow in packing the load. He stopped beating them only after an elder from Tio village begged the soldier to stop.

The next day, on September 9, 2001, Sergeant Tin Myint and his troops took another 15 porters from Tio village and forced them to carry army ammunition from Tio village to Lentlang army camp.

Ms. Nini (an eye witness of the incident), 29 years old villager from Tio village reported the incident to CHRO field worker on September 15 2001.

(CHRO note: the name Nini is not her real name. We changed the name to protect her identity for security reasons)

Forced Portering In Thantlang Twongship

Burmese Army Light Infantry Battalion LIB 274 and LIB 268 conducted a joint military operation in Thantlang township, Chin State in the month of August 2001. Commanding in charge of military intelligence unit in Chin State, Hla Myint Htun led the operation.

To aid in the supply needs during the operation, Hla Myint Htun and his troops arrested many civilians to serve as porters. The huge loads of army supplies, however, exceeded the availability of civilian porters. Thus, the troops demanded horses from the civilians to carry the loads.

The operation lasted for three weeks, and villagers from Thantlang township had to endure grueling conditions during the whole operations.

SPDC Soldier Robbed Villagers

Captain Hlaing Hlaing of Burmese Army Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) 274 Mindat battalion robbed 10000 Kyats from Pu Dun (Name change for security reason) of Pintia village of Matupi township, Chin State on August 25, 2001.

Pu Dun and his friends were traveling when they met with Captain Hlaing Hlaing and his troops. The soldiers stopped Pu Dun and his friends and search their bags and took 10000 Kyats from Pu Dun. The incident occurred at Khemu stream between Hlungmang and Zawngling village.

SPDC Lt. Colonel Demanded Solar Plate From Chin Villagers

The following report is provided by Pu Than Kip, a 60 year-old farmer from Lungcawi village of Matupi township in Chin State.

Commander of Light Infantry Battalion LIB 274 from Mindat, Lt. Colonel Maung Maung and his troops came to Lungcawi village to patrol around the India-Burma border on 24th August 2001. As soon as they arrived, the Lt. Colonel demanded 4 villagers to porter army supplies. Thus, the village headman has to quickly assemble the villagers to serve as porter. As most of the villagers were working at their farm at the time the army arrived, the village headman had to ask some elderly people to serve(including Pu Sui Kung 55 year old, who was sick at that timer) as porter to meet the Lt. Colonel demand.

Pu Sui Kung and three other villagers had to carry rations and ammunition for Lt. Colonel and his troops for four days. After four days, they came back to Lungcawi village on 28 August 2001.

While Lt. Colonel Maung Maung was in the village, the village headman and some village elders took the opportunity to ask him to give them permission for making a ferryboat to be used for crossing the Bawinu river, which separates India and Burma, for easy access to goods from the India side. Lungcawi area is so remote and isolated from major towns in Burma that it is easier for the villagers to get their commodity supplies from India.

Lt. Colonel told the villagers that if they give him a solar plate and 10000 Kyats, he would give them his permission. Thus the villagers bought a solar plate, which is worth 50000 Kyat and gave it to Lt. Colonel Maung Maung along with 10000 Kyats.

Civilians Forced to Repair Army Camp

Villagers from Matupi township of Chin State were forced to repair army camp in the month of September.

Captain Hlaing Hlaing of Burmese Army from Light Infantry Battalion LIB 274 based in Mindat ordered villagers from Sabawgte area to repair Sabawngte army camp.

Nine persons from Pintia village, 10 villagers from Hlungmang village, 10 villagers from Sabawngpi village, and 8 villagers from Tawnglalung village have to repair the fence of Sabawngte army camp from September 10 to 15, 2001.

The work started from 6 AM to 5 PM every day. The villagers have to carry their own tools and rations.

During the third day of their work, 14 year-old boy laborer from Pintia village got bitten by a snake. Even though there is a military medic present in the army camp, the boy did not get any treatment from the army. Thus, villagers treated him with traditional method and carried him to his village.

One village elder said that there was an order issued by the home ministry to prohibiting the practice of forced labor, but the army still used forced labor and called civilian for porter whenever they needed. “It is very difficult to make a living here. We spend most of our labor working for the army”̈ said the villager.

SPDC Soldiers Looted From Civilians

The Burmese military launched offensive against the Chin National Front, the armed opposition group, in the month of August and September. Thus, the Burmese military forced many people to serve as porters during the operation.

A Captain ( name not known ) from Light Infantry Battalion LIB 268 Falam battalion established a temporary command camp at Ngaphaipi village, Thantlang towship during the military operation. One 21 August 2001, the Captain ordered Fartlang village, Khuapilu village, La-u village, Ngaphaipi village, that each village must bring two tins of rice, five chickens and 8600 Kyats to the camp.

Similarly, Captain Myo Kyaw Htun, Company commander from LIB 274 Vuangtu army camp established temporary army camp between Lungcawipi and Ngaphaipi village. As the camp was on the trade route to Mizoram State of India, Captain Myo Kyaw Htun looted 300000 Kyats from cattle traders on 28 August 2001.

One of the Cattle traders reported the incident to CHRO on 15 September 2001.

 

Can’t Afford Identity Card

In the area around the townships of Tamu and Kalay of Sagaing Division, Western Burma, people are being required to pay a cost of 40,00 Kyats in order to obtain a national identity card. Ordinary citizens such as farmers are finding it difficult to afford the high cost. Possession of national identity card is a mandatory requirement for every Burmese citizen, which must be carried along at all times.

A person has to pay 4000 Kyats in Burmese currency to the department of immigration in order to be issued the national identity card. If the card is destroyed or lost, an additional 6000 Kyats have to be paid to the department for issuance of a new card.

Unable to afford the cost, most farmers have to get reference letter from the village headman whenever they travel, as a temporary substitute for the card. The reference letter is valid up to three months from the date of issue. Village headmen are charging 250 Kyats per reference letter per person. If the immigration department finds out that someone is using expired document, he/she is subject to fine up to 1500 Kyats to 2000 Kyats.

In Burma, registration for national identity card is made mandatory to every citizen and everyone must carry it with him or her at all times especially when traveling. Travelers or visitors have to report their presence to the village or township authority in which they are visiting. Immigration officials and military intelligence conduct door-to-door surprise and random checks at night. Anyone found without proper guest registration or without identity card is subject to fine or arrest.

Burmese Army Force Chin Civilians to Sell Liquor

Chin Christian villages from Thantlang Township, Chin State were forced to sell liquor by the Burmese army in September 2001.

The order to sell liquor was signed by Captain Myo Kyaw Htun, commander of Vuangtu army camp, of Light Infantry Battalion LIB 274, known as Mindat battalion.

Captain Myo Kyaw Htun ordered villages headmen from 28 villages to come to Vuangtu army camp without fail for an important meeting. When the villages¡| headmen, except the headman of Banawhtlang village who was absent, came to Vuangtu army camp, he ordered that each village headman have to sell 48 bottles of liquor in their village as the rate of 120 Kyats per bottle.

The Captain was outraged due to the absence of the headman of Banawhtlang in the meeting. Thus, he sent a warning letter to the headman of Banawhtlang village that if he could not give satisfactory explanation for failing to come to the meeting, he will be automatically considered as a strong supporter of Chin National Front and the army will take necessary action against his village.

The warning of the Burmese Captain terrified all the villagers. Pu Thang Ling 54 year old village elder from Banawhtlang village said that the reason their village could not go to the meeting was due to the fact that the village was facing shortage of food and village elders were busy managing to get food for the village.

 

“You Must Play Soccer” Said SPDC Captain

Captain Myo Kyaw Htun, commander of Vuangtu army camp from Thantlang towship Chin State issued an order that there be a soccer tournament at Vuangtu village on August 14, 2001. He ordered 28 villages from Thantlang towship to participate in the tournament.

The villagers have to bring their own foods and all necessary accessories for the tournament. In addition, each village is ordered to pay 2500 Kyats to the Captain as an admission fee to the competition. He further decreed that selling of liquor during the tournament is compulsory.

Even though August is the busiest time for farmers in Chin State, the villagers do not dare to deny the order and the entire villages, except for Banawhtlang village, were compelled to participate in the competition.

Enraged by the absence of Banawhtlang village, Captain Myo Kyaw Htun sent a warning letter saying that the village headman have to explain in person the reason why they did not participate in the tournament. Besides, Banawhtlang village still have to pay 2500 Kyats admission fee, 3 bags of rice and a pig (a big one), despite their absense.

The headman of Banawhtlang village was so scared to meet with the Captain. So he asked Lulpilung village headman Pu Biak Mang to meet Captain Myo Kyaw Htun on his behalf. Thus, Banawhtlang village sent 10000 Kyats to the Captain through Pu Biak Mang. Pu Biak Mang explained to the Captain that Banawhtalng village were facing food shortage and they were in great trouble and he asked the Captain to reconsider his order regarding Banawhtlang village.

The Captain took 10000 Kyats and told Pu Biak Mang that Banawhtlang village have to send 5000 more kyats and a chicken.

List of Villages Ordered to Participate in the soccer tournament

Banawhtlang, Lulpilung, Salen, Tikir A, Tikir B, Tlangrua A, Tlangrua B, Zephai A, Zephai B, Ngalang, Belhar, Lawngtlang A, Lawngtlang B, Hriphi A, Hriphi B, Vomkua, Khuabung A, Khuabung B, Zabung, Hlam Phei, Hmunhalh, Hriangkhan, Thao, Fartlang, Lungcawi, Ngaphaipi, Ngaphaite, and Lailen.

Order Sent by Vuangtu Army Camp Commander to Banawhtlang Village

( CHRO translated it from original Burmese )

Order

To.

Banawhtlang village

All the youth representatives have a meeting on 28 July 2001. Even though Banawhtlang village have received the order, they failed to come to the meeting. This letter is to inform you that there will be a soccer tournament at Vuangtu army camp on 14 August 2001. You must bring 3 bags of rice, a ball and a pig.

Admission fee: 2500 Kyats

First Prize : 15000 Kyats

Second Prize : 10000 Kyats

Third Prize : 7000 Kyats

Sd./

Company commander

Vuangtu Camp

To.

Village headman

Banawhtlang village

Date 29. 7. 2001

You failed to obey my order to send the youth from your village. We sent you several orders to come to the camp, but still ignored the order of the army. The army considered you and your village as strong supporter of the underground Chin National Front. As soon as you get this order, you must come to the camp without fail. If you fail to come to the camp, I have to report the case to my superior and will take necessary actions.

Sd./

Company commander

Vuangtu Camp

 

ICRC Suggests Some Prisoners Not Relevant To Hard Labor

November 2, 2001

Some of the prisoners are going to be sent back to original prisons from hard labor camps of number one “new life project” near Indo-Burma border due to suggestion of International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

Local Burmese doctors will under take the prisoners from Thanan, Myothit, Bandula and Razagyo number two camps a medical check up before ICRC’s visit to these camps. Those who are not in suitable health conditions will be sent back to original prisons for food substitution, rest and medical treatments, mentioned in an order released by Directorate of Prison Affairs under Ministry of Home Affairs on October 25.

Prisoners who are in good health from Kalay prison will be replaced in these sent back prisoners, also mentioned in the order.

ICRC visited to so call “New Life Projects” in Kabal valley near Indo-Burma border from September 1 to September 19 and suggested more than 130 prisoners in these camps were not suitable for the hard labor. The ICRC delegation visited Oak-pho, Sayasan and Razagyo number one camps in the same new life project number one.

More than 120 prisoners from these three camps were sent back to their original prisons and about 200 prisoners from Monywa prison were replaced in the camps, NMG reported in a previous article.

Although ICRC visited and suggested for better situation in hard labor camps, five prisoners from Razagyo number one camp ran away on October 25, while they were doing their work under tight security. The security guards rearrested those run away prisoners and beat them, a source from Indo-Burma border reported. All of five prisoners as well as other 6 who were alleged to discuss for escape were put in shackles and halters.

ICRC made two visits during September to hard labor camps and made suggestion on the situation of the camps, mentioned in leaked reports. ICRC found out that the food given to prisoners were not good enough in both quality and quantity, drinking water is not safe, prisoners do not get rest including who suffering from illnesses, improper health care system and prisoners are frequently beaten. ICRC suggested to prison authorities of Burma to improve these conditions, NMG learnt from the reports leaked out.

All together eight “New Life Projects”, all over Burma, were opened for the prisoners, who are charged for imprisonment with hard labor, with the instruction of Senior General Than Shwe in 1994.

Burmese regime is using these labors to implement its long-term agricultural projects. The mortality rate in these hard labor camps ranges from 24 to 30 percent because of continuous hard labor, malaria and insufficient food, according to the prison authorities reports.

Network Media Group

Letter & Press Release:

Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s Letter To The Burmese Regime

11 December 2001

Senior General Than Shwe

State Peace and Development Council

Ministry of Defense

Signal Pagoda Road

Yangon, Myanmar

Dear General Than Shwe,

We were gratified to learn of your public statements in response to our call for the release of our colleague Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest, full respect for the human rights of the citizens of your country and agreement to extend confidence building talks with Aung San Suu Kyi to include dialogue with the leaders of political parties and ethnic minorities.

It is heartening to learn of your belief that we are all on “the winning side” in that we share “the common objective of creating Myanmar to become a fully functioning democracy.” Your statement declared: “Today we are in the process of joining hands walking on the same path toward our common objective while successfully maintaining the hard-won peace stability and national unity.”

We are concerned with the misunderstanding that you report exists between the National League for Democracy and the Government of Myanmar. We are of the strong belief that misunderstandings can best be resolved through open and respectful dialogue. We are willing and prepared to support this process in any way. To do so, we would like to meet with you at your earliest convenience. We respectfully request that you agree to welcome a delegation of Nobel Peace Laureates to your country so that we might meet with you and your colleagues as well as with our colleague, Aung San Suu Kyi.

We sincerely believe that the “path toward our common objective” to which you refer can be made more open by your willingness to agree to release Aung San Suu Kyi and all political detainees immediately. It will also be enhanced by your agreement to move forward with a genuine and substantive dialogue that includes leaders of political parties and ethnic minorities with the aim of achieving national reconciliation and the restoration of democracy.

Such action will not only move your nation closer to realizing the common goal of a fully functioning democracy, but also to considerably enhancing your standing in the world. We look forward to supporting you in this process and to the full integration of Burma into the international community.

Sincerely and respectfully yours,

Archbishop Desmond M. Tutu

Chair, Nobel Peace Laureate Campaign for Aung San Suu Kyi

And the People of Burma

 

Burma’s Democracy Leader Still Under House Arrest, Ten Years After Winning Nobel Peace Prize

For Immediate Release

Aung San Suu Kyi urges end to Canadian investment in Burma because of dictatorship’s human rights abuses, collaboration with heroin traffickers

OTTAWA, December 7, 2001. Ten years ago on December 10, Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of Burma’s democracy movement, won the Nobel Peace Prize for her remarkable non-violent struggle against one of the world’s worst military dictatorships. Today, she continues her struggle, while waiting for her chance to take the office she legally won, in a landslide general election, more than a decade ago.

Aung San Suu Kyi’s party, the National League for Democracy, won an overwhelming victory in her country’s democratic elections in 1990. But instead of handing over the reins of government, Burma’s military rulers illegally nullified the election results and kept Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest where she has spent most of her time since 1989.

In the ten years since then, the military regime has earned continuous international condemnation for its widespread use of forced labour, its violent campaign against ethnic minorities, and its complicity in the multi-billion-dollar heroin trade. As a result, the dictatorship is an international pariah with few friends.

But in spite of these abuses, the dictatorship remains firmly in power. An important reason for this is that only one country, the United States, has imposed sanctions against investing in Burma. With no firm rules prohibiting investment in Burma, companies from most countries, including Canada, are free to choose for themselves.

In a video smuggled out of Burma in 1999, Aung San Suu Kyi addressed the people of Canada, thanking them for their continued support of Burma’s democracy movement. She also repeated her call for Canadians not to do business in Burma, stressing that “investment only benefits the military authorities and their allies…we do not think that investment in our country at this time can do our country any good.”

She has a good point. Foreign companies investing in Burma are usually steered into joint ventures with state-owned enterprises, which are run by the generals. Some Canadian companies have heeded Aug San Suu Kyi’s urging to cut business ties with the Burmese military dictatorship. These companies include Wal-Mart Canada, Sears Canada, and The Bay.

However, many other Canadian companies continue to do business with the Burmese military. One of these, Marshall Macklin Monaghan (MMM) Ltd. of Toronto, helped to build the Mandalay airport, even though the military forcibly relocated villagers who lived near the site, and forced other local villagers to help build the road to the airport.

Another Canadian company, Ivanhoe Mines, which is in a 50-50 partnership with the dictatorship in the largest foreign mining operation in Burma, is a likely beneficiary of the regime’s use of forced labour. Testimony from local villagers indicates that the military forcibly relocated people from a total of eight villages in order to make way for the Monywa mine.

Although the Canadian government officially discourages investment in Burma, in reality Ivanhoe receives generous tax incentives for the Monywa mine operation.

Aung San Suu Kyi’s call for sanctions against the dictatorship echoes that of Nelson Mandela, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and others, in their successful struggle against the South African apartheid regime. Last November, the International Labour Organization (ILO) called on its members, which include Canada, to review their connections with Burma to make sure they are not helping to perpetuate the system of forced labour there. Reports to the ILO say that it is impossible to carry out business in Burma without benefiting from or perpetuating the country’s distinct brand of slavery to which hundreds of thousands of its citizens are subjected each year.

Although Burma is thousands of kilometres away, literally on the other side of the planet, Canadians pay a heavy—and direct—social price because of the failure to impose comprehensive sanctions against the military dictatorship. According to the RCMP, most of the heroin imported to Canada comes from Burma. In spite of strong international pressure to stop the heroin trade, the Burmese generals allow convicted drug lords to live freely and even to launder drug money through state-owned banks.

The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, launched fifty years ago, signaled the beginning of the end of Japan’s military expansion in China and Southeast Asia. Four years later, the defeat of the Japanese empire heralded a hopeful new era for the people of the region. And yet, over fifty years after Japan’s defeat, Burma still suffers under a dictatorship every bit as harsh and arbitrary as the Japanese occupation. And, like the Afghan Taliban regime, it is universally known as a corrupt and brutal collection of thugs who condone, and even profit from, the sale of heroin to the west.

As people across Canada prepare to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Aung San Suu

Kyi, winning the Nobel Peace Prize, they will also reflect on the inconsistency of Canadian policy toward rogue states.

At a time when the international community is working to strengthen money-laundering laws to fight terrorism, the military regime in Burma still makes it possible to launder profits from the drug industry. And notorious Burmese drug lords, indicted in the United States, continue to live freely and comfortably under Rangoon’s wing. Aung San Suu Kyi’s supporters across Canada call for her immediate and unconditional release, as well as the release of all other political prisoners in Burma. When this happens, there can be tripartite dialogue between the NLD, Burma’s military regime, and ethnic minority representatives.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the South African Nobel Peace Laureate and a prominent opponent of the former apartheid regime, has urged the international community and fellow Nobel Peace Laureates to salute and support Burma’s democracy leader and the people of Burma in their non-violent struggle for human rights and democracy.

Canadians will join Burma supporters all over the world in marking this important anniversary. There will be celebrations in Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Edmonton, and Ottawa.

For more information, please contact:

Canadian Friends of Burma, Ottawa, (613) 237-8056.

 

Facts & Arguments:

Canadian Ties To Burma’s Dictatorship

Although Burma is thousands of kilometres away, Canadians are very much connected to this Southeast Asian country of 50 million people. Ever since Burma’s military regime opened the country up to foreign trade and investment in 1989 for the first time in three decades, Canada’s corporate sector has been conducting business there. These commercial links have increased steadily over the past decade, rising sharply in the past few years to over $300 million of investment and $60 million worth of trade at the present time.

Burma’s Nobel Peace Laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi has called on the international community not to do business in her country under the current military regime. Leader of the National League for Democracy, which won an overwhelming victory in the country’s 1990 national elections, Aung San Suu Kyi stresses that foreign business only props up the military dictatorship and does not help the majority of Burma’s citizens.

More recently, reports to the ILO say that it is impossible to carry out business in Burma without benefiting from or perpetuating the country’s distinct brand of slavery to which hundreds of thousands of citizens are subjected each year. In response to this problem, last November, the International Labour Organization (ILO) called on its members, which include Canada, to review their connections with Burma to make sure they are not helping to foster the system of forced labour there.

Most of the heroin that comes into Canada originates in Burma according to the RCMP. Heroin has had devastating effects on people=s lives in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal. The military dictatorship does not just turn a blind eye to the heroin traffic, it supports by letting convicted drug lords roam free and by allowing heroin profits to be laundered through state-owned banks controlled by the military regime. Moreover, the report Out of Control 2, produced by the Southeast Asian Information Network identifies heroin refineries that are located next to army bases and others, which are partially-owned by senior Burmese military generals.

Canadian Policy:

Although concerned with the deteriorating human rights situation in Burma, the Government of Canada continues to allow Canadian business in Burma. In August 1997, Canada removed Burma’s preferential tariff eligibility and restricted Canadian exports to Burma, to encourage the military regime to enter into meaningful dialogue with the leaders of the democracy movement.

Despite these measures, imports to Canada from Burma have more than tripled in the past four years. Last year’s import value of $60.794 million was more than double the value of the previous year (Industry Canada).

The Canadian government imposes absolutely no restriction on investment, which has shot up to over $300 million to date mostly in Burma’s mining and gas sectors. CFOB’s most recent research indicates that, since 1997, at least 11 new Canadian companies have invested in or expanded already-existing investment in Burma[1]. The Government of Canada maintainsthat with regard to investment, their hands are tied because of the Special Economic Mea! sures Act (SEMA). The recent ILO resolution, however, now fully justifies triggering the SEMA to ban investment.[2]

Canadian Corporations in Burma:

The largest foreign mining venture in Burma, Ivanhoe Mines, is registered in Canada’s Yukon to take advantage of generous tax incentives provided by the Territorial government. Invanhoe is involved in a copper mine, which is a 50/50 joint venture with Burma’s military controlled Mining Enterprise No.1″.

In research conducted by CFOB, testimony was received from Burmese villagers[3] stating that eight villages were forcibly relocated in June 2000 to make way for the Monywa copper mine’s expansion. Ivanhoe has already invested $150 million in the project and is looking for a further $400 million for its expansion. In addition, nearly one million workers toiled on the building of a railway line from Monywa to the district centre of Pakokku, while another 5,000 villagers had to contribute their labour to the irrigation development around the Thazi dam near Monywa. The proximity of these infrastructur! e projects to the mine would make it extremely difficult for Ivanhoe to avoid benefitting from forced labour.

Another significant Canadian commercial venture in Burma is the $24 million contract that Canadian Helicopters International signed in 1997 for five years involving two aircraft operating from Rangoon and a third remotely operated. Previously, CHC provided helicopter services for a French oil company named Total, for its work on the Yadana pipeline which was constructed with the help of forced labour.[4]

Currently, one of Total Oil’s foreign partners in the project, the American oil giant, Unocal, is being sued by 14 villagers who had been living in the vicinity of the pipeline and suffered terrible abuses by the military regime in connection with the project’s construction and security. In September 2001, a US Federal Court judge stated that evidence suggested Unocal knew about and benefitted from forced labour on the pipeline.

Forced Labour in Burma: A Modern Form of Slavery

One of the most pervasive human rights violations in Burma is the military regime’s system of forced labour. Called a modern form of slavery, by the United Nations, International Labour Organization (ILO), forced labour is used on a multitude of construction projects in numerous industries, from repairing tourist sites to carrying artillery for the army during military offensives.

The ILO took the strongest action it has ever taken towards a member country, against Burma, due to the country’s forced labour situation. In November 2000, the ILO called on its members, which include Canada, to review their connections with Burma to ensure that they are not helping to perpetuate the system of forced labour there. Reports to the ILO state that it is impossible to carry out business in Burma without benefitting from or perpetuating the country’s distinct brand of slavery to which hundreds of thousands of its citizens are subjected each year.

Generally any person in Burma can be forced into hard labour at any time by military authorities, men, women, children, the elderly, the sick and pregnant women. Forced labour is often accompanied by beatings, rape, deprivation of food, rest, and medical care.

ILO Report on Forced Labour:

After 30 years of criticism by the ILO of forced labour in Burma, in 1997, a commission of inquiry was set up to discover the facts. In July 1998, they released their findings in a 392 page document distilled from nearly 10,000 pages of testimonies and eye witness reports.

A year after the report was published, the military had still not taken any measures to fulfil the report’s recommendations to address the widespread use of forced labour. Therefore, in an unprecedented move, the ILO banned Burma from future meetings and from any future support until the regime takes significant steps towards positive change.

Report Excerpts:

There is abundant evidence before the Commission showing the pervasive use of forced labour imposed on the civilian population of Myanmar by the authorities and the military for portering, construction, maintenance and servicing of military camps, other work in support of the military, work on agriculture, logging and other production projects undertaken by the authorities or the military, sometimes for the profit of private individuals, the construction and maintenance of roads, railways, and bridges, and other infrastructure work..

… it appears that unfettered powers of military and government officers to exact forced labour from the civilian population are taken for granted…the manifold exactions of forced labour often give rise to the extortion of money…also to threats to life and security, extrajudicial punishment, physical abuse, beatings, torture, rape and murder.

Forced labour in Myanmar is almost never remunerated or compensated, secret directives notwithstanding, but on the contrary often goes hand in hand with the exaction of money, food and other supplies from the civilian population.

All the information and evidence before the Commission shows utter disregard for the safety and health as well as the basic needs of the people performing forced or compulsory labour…

A state which supports, instigates, accepts or tolerates forced labour on its territory commits a wrongful act…Whatever may be the position in national law…any person who violates the prohibition of recourse to forced labour under the Convention is guilty of an international crime, that is also, if committed in a widespread or systematic manner, a crime against humanity.

The Commission considers…the establishment of a government freely chosen by the people and the submission of all public authorities to the rule of law are, in practice indispensable prerequisites for the suppression of forced labour in Myanmar.

This report reveals a saga of untold misery and suffering, oppression and exploitation of large sections of the population. The government, the military and the administration seem oblivious to the human rights of the people, their actions gravely offend human dignity and have a debasing effect on the civil society, where human rightsare denied or violated in any part of the world it is bound to have a chain effect on other parts of the world and it is therefore of vital interest to the international community.

Burma’s Illicit Drug Economy

Since the ascendance of the current military regime in 1988, Burma has become one of the world’s largest suppliers of heroin. The current military regime profits from, protects and supports Burma’s illicit drug industry.

The regime allows notorious Burmese drug lords, such as Khun Sa and Lo Hsing Han, to operate as legitimate businessmen in Burma. The South East Asian Information Network (SAIN) in a 1998 report, listed five army regiments with headquarters or outposts alongside heroin refineries. It reports that bulk heroin exports from the refinery at Paletwa in north-west Burma were carried by army helicopter into Bangladesh, there being no roads for transportation. Dr. Desmond Ball, an Australian researcher, identified in 1999 three infantry battalions that, between them were maintaining six heroin refineries along the drug routes in north-eastern Burma. He also identifies senior generals that were part owners of heroin refineries at the time of his research.

Money Laundering:

Desperate for foreign currency, the Burmese military regime has created legislation that helps launder the proceeds of drugs. In levying a 40 per cent tax rate on declared assets, the regime makes no inquiry into the source of the assets. Moreover, Burma’s military junta openly allows profits from the drug trade to be channeled through military-controlled companies such as banks and the Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprises. As a result of this money laundering, illicit drug profits permeate Burma’s economy.

In such an environment, foreign companies have no way to ensure their operations in Burma are clean. A prime example of this problem was the case of Wal-Mart Canada, which was found in 2000 to be importing from a clothing company in Burma owned by the notorious drug lord Lo Hsing Han.

Burma Heroin in Canada:

Canadians are not immune from the scourge of Burma’s heroin trade. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police RCMP states that most of the heroin coming into Canada originates in Burma. Meanwhile, heroin has had devastating effects on people’s lives in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal. Therefore, Canadian companies which support Burma’s military regime through their business there, are inevitably and ironically contributing to social problems in Canada.

In 1997, Burma was responsible for about 60 per cent of the word’s supply of heroin. Production of raw opium exceeded 2500 tonnes, or more than double the yield in 1988 when the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC), the forerunner of the SPDC took power. Opium poppy cultivation in Burma has also increased from some 92,300 hectares to more than 200,000 under the SPDC (Dr. Desmond Ball,”Burma and Drugs: The Regime’s Complicity in the global drug trade! ” in Asia-Pacific Magazine, No.14, 1999).

The regime has created legislation which helps launder the proceeds of drugs. The Burmese regime levies a 40 % tax rate on declared assets other than real property, but as long a! s the tax is paid, there is no inquiry into the source of the assets (US State Department, 1998). Also banks launder dubious money in exchange for a 25 % to 40% fee. In 1996, there was US $250 million of unexplained investment attracted by the scheme (The IMF and the UN Conference on Trade and Development in the Sunday Times [London] May 10, 1998).

Money laundering and the return of narcotic profits laundered elsewhere are very significant factors in the overall Burmeseeconomy and are officially sanctioned by the junta. The SPDC openly allows profits from the drug trade to be channeled into private and public enterprises through Burma’s national company, the Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprises (MOGE) and the banks. (Leslie Kean and Dennis Bernstein, People of the Opiate in the Nation, Dec. 16, 1996).

A study by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) cites large expenditures unaccounted for by the junta: Despite the fact that Burma’s foreign exchange reserves from 1991-1993 were only approximately $300 million, the SLORC purchased arms worth $1.2 billion during the period (The Nation, Dec. 1996).!

A Unless there is a democratically elected civilian government that can win the support of all the Burmese people, including the ethnic minorities, progress on the drug front will be impossible. (Michael Jendrzejeczyk, Director of Human Rights Watch/Asia, the New York Times, Feb.12, 1993).

A major dimension of the corruption [of the military dictatorship in Burma] is the involvement of the regime – from the most senior members of the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) which rules the country, down to infantry soldiers stationed in border areas – in drug trafficking. (Dr. Desmond Ball, Burma and Drugs: The Regime’s Complicity in the global drug trade in Asia-Pacific Magazine, No.14, 1999).

# The opium-heroin trade in Burma is a sophisticated, world-wide multi-billion dollar business which requires a large infrastructure, especially for refining, transporting and protecting the product, from Burma’s borders to its neighbouring countries. (Dr. Chao-Tzang Yawnghwe, The War on Drugs and Drug Policies; paper distributed at the International Conference on Drugs, 1996).

# US anti-drug assistance to the Burmese government has failed in the past, and in the last four years Burmese authorities have made no discernible effort to improve their performance…SLORC has been part of the problem, not the solution. (Robert S. Gelbard, former US assistant secretary of state for international narcotics and law-enforcement affairs, Far Eastern Economic Review, Nov.21, 1996).

The United States: We are increasingly concerned that Burma’s drug traffickers, with official encouragement, are laundering their profits through Burmese banks and companies–some of which are joint ventures with foreign businesses.It is hard to imagine a lasting solution to this region’s narcotics problem without a lasting solution to Burma’s political crisis. (Madeleine Albright, US Secretary of State, Jul.1997).

Britain: Burma is the largest single world producer of opium, and it has achieved that infamous position precisely because it has a government that does not act against the drug barons. It is not only a deeply repressive regime, but is also a deeply irresponsible regime in that it is one of the few governments in the world whose members are prepared to profit out of the drugs trade rather than to seek to suppress it (Robin Cook, British Foreign Secretary, South-China Morning Post, Sept.2,1998).

Thailand: Thai anti-narcotics officials have been quoted as saying that the Burmese military are actively supporting the United Wa State Army believed to be one of the main drug trafficking organizations in the Golden Triangle (The BBC, Jul 25,1999)

Burma’s Military-Controlled Economy

International investment may help open societies and bring democratic change in some countries. In Burma, however, foreign investment helps perpetuate the cruelty of a repressive unelected junta. While the majority of Burmese receive no benefit from foreign enterprise, foreign exchange allows the military to maintain its rule by force of arms.

The military regime’s own figures state that expenditure on defence since 1988 to the present had increased from 22.35 per cent to49.93 per cent. During the same period, spending on health-care and education had dropped from 4.71 per cent and 12.9 per cent to 2.53 and 6.98, respectively.

Full foreign ownership of companies operating in Burma is generally forbidden and almost all large investment in Burma is carried out through joint ventures with the military regime, notably the Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings (UMEH). The UMEH is owned in part (40%) by the Defense Ministry’s Directorate of Procurement, whose main function is to import armaments. The other 60% of UMEH shares is reserved for active and retired military officers, army-owned business enterprises and friendship societies, including veteran groups.

Since the ascendance of the current military regime in 1988, Burma has become one of the world’s largest suppliers of heroin. This very fact is just one of the many examples that point to the regime’s profiting, protection and support of Burma’s illicit drug industry.

The regime allows notorious Burmese drug lords, such as Khun Sa and Lo Hsing Han, to operate as legitimate businessmen in Burma. The South East Asian Information Network (SAIN) in a 1998 report, listed five army regiments with headquarters or outposts alongside heroin refineries. It reports that bulk heroin exports from the refinery at Paletwa in north-west Burma were carried by army helicopter into Bangladesh, there being no roads for transportation. Dr. Desmond Ball, an Australian researcher, identified in 1999 three infantry battalions that, between them were maintaining six heroin refineries along the drug routes in north-eastern Burma. He also identifies senior generals that were part owners of heroin refineries at the time of his research.

Nobel Peace Laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi and her democratically elected National League for Democracy have been calling for sanctions against their own country since it became obvious that foreign investment was only benefiting the military authorities and their allies. In a video smuggled out of Burma in August 1999, Aung San Suu Kyi stated that:

“We do not think that investment in our country at this time can do our country any good…Investment made at the right time in the right way could be of enormous benefit not only to the people of Burma but to thos who are investing in Burma. But that time has not yet come.”

Just as the South African anti-apartheid movement called for economic sanctions against their own country, Burma’s democracy movement is calling for an end to foreign financial support to the brutal military dictatorship.

The Situation of Women in Burma

Like all their fellow citizens, Burma’s women face the day-to-day struggle of life under military rule in Burma. But the country’s women also face particular problems and abuse on account of their gender. Apart from the general maltreatment and discrimination directed against women in their society, Burmese women and girls, especially in ethnic minority areas, are faced with the constant danger of being raped or trafficked into the sex industry.

Sexual Assault:

Women are subjected to rape and other sexual assaults in a variety of contexts; in their villages and fields; during flight; while they are serving as forced labourers or forced porters for the army; and under assorted pretexts in which soldiers abuse their authority and claim to be checking women’s documents. Women are raped by Burmese soldiers in their own homes, while they are internally displaced, and while they are on their way to seek refuge in neighbouring countries. These abuses have escalated over the past decade under because soldiers have become used to taking what they want under the current military regime which allows them to do so with impunity. (See School of Rape by Earthrights In! ternational, Convention for the Elimination of Violence Against Women Shadow Report)

Trafficking into Sex Industry:

The burgeoning sex industry in Burma and trafficking of Burmese women to Thailand and other countries also gives rise to enormous health difficulties, most notably HIV and AIDS. As well, Burmese sex workers (often coerced into the industry) in Burma, in Thailand, India and Bangladesh suffer from high rates of sexually transmitted disease and are often victims of beatings and other physical assaults.

An estimated 80,000 women from Burma are engaged in prostitution in Thailand. Along the Thai-Burma border, agents recruit women with false promises of providing them with employment or legal resident status in Thailand or force them into prostitution under threats to their lives. Many brothels are surrounded by electric fences and armed guards to avoid escape. They rarely have access to heath care or HIV education. Their rate of HIV infection is much higher than among Thai prostitutes.

Women’s Health:

Maternal motility rate in 1993 was 140 per 100,000 live births. In 1987, abortions accounted for 52 per cent of all registered maternal deaths. Though the practice is illegal in Burma, induced abortion is resorted to in the absence of knowledge and other means for family planning. Other causes of high material mortality are malaria, malnutrition,goiter, severe anemia, sexually transmitted diseases and the limited coverage of trained birth attendants in remote areas.

According to UNICEF, the national infant mortality rate in 1996 was 105 per live births, which can be compared to 33 in Vietnam, 31 in Thailand and 11 in Malaysia. One million children are reportedly malnourished. 9 to 12 percent of them severely so. The high rate of babies with birth weight below 2,300 grams is probably reflection of the high malnutrition levels among pregnant women. Under the current regime which took power in 1988, these figures have likely increased since health care has deteriorated significantly. Moreover, this data is not completely accurate because it does! not include information from Burma’s ethnic civil war areas, where health conditions are even worse, because UN agencies and international non-governmental organizations have limited access.

[1]Ivanhoe Mines, Aeroground Group Services, Cavern International Industries, East Asia Gold Corporation, First Dynasty Mines, International Bio-Recovery, Leeward Capital Corp, Marshall Macklin Monaghan, Northrock Resources, Prime Resources Management, Suzuki Canada

[2]This is because the ILO resolution responds to the Act=s allowance that a resolution from an international body, such as the United Nations, empowers such an action. AThe Governor in Council may, for the purpose of implementing a decision, resolution or recommendation of an international organization of states or association of states, o! f which Canada is a member, that calls on its members to take economic measures against a foreign state.

[3]Individual identities are not disclosed to protect their security

[4]ATotal Denial [email protected] by Earthrights International, 2000

Rhododendron News

VOL.IV No.IV JULY-AUGUST 2001

HUMAN RIGHTS

 

– A Female Pastor Sentenced For Two Years With Hard Labour In Haka

 

– A Village’s Dream To Solve Drinking Water Problems Ruined

 

– Cross-border Chin traders Robbed and Beaten up By Burmese Soldiers

 

– A Chin Farmer Badly Beaten Up

 

– Civilian in Southern Chinland forced to work at the Army Camp

 

REFUGEE

 

– Burma’s ethnic refugees in Indian border get no help

 

LETTER & PRESS RELEASE

 

– Press Release From Chin

 

– Urgent Action Called By Amnesty International

 

SCHOLAR SECTION

 

– Democracy Movement Towards Federal Union

 

– The Role of UNLD in the Struggle for Democracy and Federalism in Burma By Dr. Lian H. Sakhong (Ph.D. Uppsala University)

 

PREFACE

 

Dear Reader,

 

We are happy to inform you that with your supports, the financial assistance from National Endowment for Democracy, Open Society Institute, Associate to Develop Democracy in Burma, Inter Pares and the committed workers of Chin Human Rights Organization CHRO have made the Rhododendron fruitful. We received several letters and comments both criticism and praise about the work of CHRO and the Rhododendron in the past year. We treasure your comments, feedback, ideas and advice.

 

Despite the hostile environment and under the extremely dangerous situation, CHRO has been relentlessly documenting human rights situation sometimes with the ultimate sacrifice. In April 1998, one of our field monitors Mr. Michael Enzapau was shot dead while collecting human rights information from the villagers. Again, in June 200, another field worker, Mr. Zothang was caught by the Burmese army while interviewing victims of human rights violations and shot to dead on the spot along with two villagers.

 

Yet, because of the dedication and relentless efforts of the CHRO team, the Chin Human Rights Organization becomes one of the most reliable sources of human rights documentation organization that operate in Burma. CHRO is a contributor to the International Work Groups for Indigenous Peoples’ year book. Furthermore, both the 1999 and 2000 United States, Department of State Annual Report of International Religious Freedom, which designated Burma as Country of Particular Concern, based most of its findings on CHRO’ reports. CHRO was also one of the primary sources used by the United States, Department of State in its Annual Human Rights Report of 1999 and 2000. CHRO’s reports were also cited in the International Labour Organization ( ILO ) reports, which followed the imposition of punitive sanctions by the organization against Burma.

 

In its international campaign for promotion of human rights and democracy in Burma, CHRO is regularly attending the United Nations Human Rights Commission Sessions and the UN working Groups on Indigenous Peoples sessions in Geneva, where it deliberates issues of human rights and democratic concerns.

 

While human rights situations in Chinland have steadily deteriorated under the Burmese military junta, CHRO has played an important role in highlighting current human rights situation and advocating for the oppressed people of Chinland in the international arena. We believe that to achieve greater efficiency and effectiveness in the ongoing work of CHRO, it needs greater participation of the Chin people and those who support our cause from around the world who share common concern for the human rights of our people. Thank you.

 

Salai BawiLian Mang

 

Director

 

Chin Human Rights Organization

 

 

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HUMAN RIGHTS

 

A Female Pastor Sentenced For Two Years With Hard Labour In Haka CHRO

 

Ottawa, July 10, 2001

 

The Chin Human Rights Organization CHRO received a report that a female pastor Ms. Gracy of Rinpi Baptist church from central Chinland was sentenced by Chin State court for two years with hard labour on 6 July 2001 in Haka, the capital of Chin State. Justice system in Burma is completely controlled by the ruling military junta.

 

Pastor Gracy was arrested by the Burmese soldiers on February 13 this year. She was accused of supporting the Chin National Front. Since her arrest, she has been detained in Haka army camp, where prison conditions are extremely severe, inadequate and precarious for a woman prisoner.

 

Pastor Gracy will soon be sent to Kalaywa hard labour camp in Sagaing division, where her brother Pu Hoi Mang is now serving two years prison term with hard labour.

 

In Chin State, the ruling military regime State Peace and Development Council ( SPDC ) publicly declared that Christian pastors are their number one enemy, accusing them of pro-colonialist white face.

 

About 90% of Chins are Christian and religious persecution is a major concern in Chin State. For the past two years, the United States Department of State designated Burma as country of particular concern violating religious freedom.

 

A Village’s Dream To Solve Drinking Water Problems Ruined

 

SPDC Soldiers Looted 23,500 Kyats from Aru villagers

 

Lieutenant Kyaw Kyaw Naing of Burmese army LIB ( 274 ) and his troops has looted 23,500 Kyats from 32 year-old Mr. Leitho ( name changed ) and friends at Aru village, Matupi township of Southern Chinland on 19th July 2001. Mr. Leitho said that there is no sufficient drinking water in Aru village. Thus, the villagers contributed money to buy water pipes to drain water from the near by stream. But the money they contributed was not still sufficient to buy the water pipe. The villagers then decided to buy cattle with the money they contributed and sell them to Mizoram hoping that they will be able to buy the water pipe with the proceeds.

 

In that way the villagers bought 4 mithuns and Mr. Leitho and friends were asked to sell the cattle to Mizoram State of India, which is 5-days journey on foot. On 17th July 2001, Mr. Leitho and friends were stopped on the way between Sabawngte and Sabawngpi village by Lt. Kyaw Kyaw Naing and his troops and demanded from them 20,000 Kyats. Athough Mr. Leitho and friends explained to the Lieutenant the whole situation that they are not mere traders and that they have no personal belongings but only that of the villagers’ contributions for buying water pipe for their village.

 

Ignoring their explanation, Lt. Kyaw Kyaw Naing sent all the cattles to Sabawngte army camp. He threatened them that if they refused to pay 20, 000 Kyats a ransom, he would arrest them and confiscate all the cattle. Intimidated, Mr. Leitho and his friends went back to Sabawngpi village. On 19th July 2001, Mr. Leitho and friends came back to Lt. Kyaw Kyaw Naing to pay 20, 000 Kyats. Then, Lt. Kyaw Kyaw Naing demanded again that besides 20, 000 kyats, Mr. Leitho and friends have to pay him a goat or 3, 500 Kyats to buy a goat. Lt. Kyaw Kyaw Naing said that he would seize all the cattle and arrest them all if they failed to meet his demands.

 

Thus, Mr. Leitho and friends paid another 23, 500 Kyats to Lt. Kyaw Kyaw Naing on 19th July 2001. Mr. Leitho said that their dreams of solving drinking water crisis in the village is ruined.

 

Cross-border Chin traders Robbed and Beaten up By Burmese Soldiers

 

On 6 June 2001, Mr. Pa Hmung ( Name changed ) from Tlangte village from Central Chinland and ten other traders left from Thantlang for Indian borders to sell 5 television sets and other goods to the northeastern State of Mizoram, India. As soon as they left the town, three Burmese soldiers with guns from Light Infantry Battalion LIB 269, Thantlang army camp stopped them. After that, one of the traders named Mr. Nawl Ceu, 56 year old, was punched and kicked by the three soldiers without saying anything. When other traders begged the soldiers to stop the beatings, the Burmese soldiers demanded 50, 000 Kyats from the traders. The soldiers threatened that all the goods will be confiscated if the traders refuse to pay their demand. Frightened, the traders paid 50, 000 Kyats to the soldiers.

 

Mr. Pa Hmung reported this incident to CHRO on 10th July, 2001. He said that even though he and his fellow traders do not know the name and ranks of the soldiers, they were sure that the soldiers were from LIB 269 Thantlang army camp.

 

A Chin Farmer Badly Beaten Up

 

A 26 year old Chin villager was hospitalized after being badly beaten up by Lt. Kyi Lin Htin, police commander of Hriphi police post. A farmer from Hriphi village, Thantlang township of central Chinland, Mr. Ral Bik was beaten for failure to guard the police camp on the night of June 3, 2001.

 

He was beaten with a thick wooden stick till he collapsed and blood started to spurt profusely from his mouth and ears. His condition was so critical that he had to be hospitalized at Thantlang town, 20 miles away from the village. Lt. Kyi Lin Htin, known for this ill-treatment of the villagers, routinely demand cillivians to guard the police camp every night. Even church leaders from various denominations and elderly people were forced to perform the night watch duty at the police camp. In additiion, the villagers were forced to contribute ration for the police camp.

 

Lt. Kyi Lin Htin had also badly beaten up other villagers for not being attentive during their night watch duty. Mr. Hmung Dun 40 year old was beaten up on the night of 24th June 2001. Mr. Hreng Cem, 20-year old was also beaten up on 19th June 2001. Mr. Ro Lian Ceu 20 year old was beaten up on the night of 29th June 2001.

 

Civilian in Southern Chinland forced to work at the Army Camp

 

CHRO received and confirmed the following information from Mr. Thang Cin, 55 year old farmer from Lungcawipi village, Matupi towship of Chin state. In the first week of June 2001 Lieutenant Kyaw Kyaw Naing of Light Infantry Battalion LIB 274 from Sabawngte army camp asked village headmen from Lungcawipi, Hlungmang, and Darling to attend a meeting on June 9 at Sabawngte army camp. He warned the villages headmen that any one who fail to attend the meeting will face revere punishment.

 

In the meeting, Lt. Kyaw Kyaw Naing issued an order for the villagers. The order includes 5 points that the villagers must obey without fail. To rebuild the fence of Sabawngte army camp. Villagers are not allowed to carry their gun outside of the village. Those who carry their gun outside of the village will be shot. To keep the record of visitors or guest from other villages. Villagers must obtain permission from the headman when they want to travel. Any guest who does not have permit from the headman shall report to the army camp.

 

Lt. Kyaw Kyaw Naing warned the villagers that if any villagers fail to comply the above order, the village must be burnt by the army. According to order number one, the villagers from Lungcawipi, Hlungmang, and Darling were forced to work from June 11, 2001. Villagers were forced to work from dawn to dark. Even though, the beginning of monsoon-the month of June- is the busiest time for villagers to work in their farm, they have to abandon their farm work and repair the fence of the army camp. The villagers have to bring their own food and tools to work at the army camp.

 

 

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REFUGEE

 

Burma’s ethnic refugees in Indian border get no help

 

Kaki Village (Indo-Burma border), August 7, 2001

 

Mizzima News Group

 

A large number of Arakanese refugees who fled from Burmese military’s repressive measures have been living silently in the Indo-Burma border areas in Mizoram State of India without receiving assistance from outside world. Most of them came from Arakanese villages of Palatwa Township in western Burma and they have been scattering along the Mizoram-Burma border and Bangladesh-Mizoram-Burma border areas since 1988.

 

Without any assistance and not getting even awareness on their existence in these remote areas, the Arakanese refugees are facing enormous survival problems and many have died over the years due to lack of basic medicines and food.

 

There are at least five Arakanese “refugee” villages in Mizoram (such as Kaki, Laung Machu, Duduswara, Laungatoan, Hmawngbuchhuah) along the border areas with Burma and upto 400 families live in a village. While the State government has failed to recognize them as “refugees”, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Office in New Delhi does not cover its actions in this north eastern state of India.

 

Transport and communication even to the nearest Lawngtlai town in southern Mizoram is very difficult due to porous terrains. The lack of medicines, doctors and food has made many refugees die every year in winter and rainy seasons. The Arakanese are one of the ethnic nationalities of Burma and the refugees alleged that they were the victims of dictatorial and repressive actions of the Burmese military government, now known as State Peace and Development Council (SPDC). Many refugees recall their bitter experiences of forced labour, forced porter, forced tax-collection, rape and various arbitrary abuses of the Burmese soldiers in their native villages in Arakan State.

 

“We fled our villages when we could no longer bear the repression of the Burmese army. But, since we arrived this area (refugee village), we have been facing several problems. We do not have proper shelter and work to survive. We don’t have any land to farm “, said a refugee who left his village (Poan Nyinn Wa village) in Arakan border in 1989.

 

According to him, despite the International Labor Organization’s pressure on the Burmese regime to end the use of forced labor in the country, the Burmese army continues to practice forced labor in a large scale in remote villages in northern Arakan State.

 

Although they yearn for going back to their homes in Burma, they said they couldn’t do so as the human rights abuses of the Burmese army continue unabated inside the country. Burmese government last year reportedly asked these refugees to come back but the refugees are not willing until their life is guaranteed in Burma.

 

 

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LETTERS & PRESS RELEASES

 

Statement regarding the imposition of harsh sentence on Pastor Gracy in Chin State, Burma

 

Date: July 19, 2001

 

For Immediate release

 

We, the undersigned Chin women residing in various parts of the world, are deeply shocked and disturbed by yet another arrest, imprisonment and unjustified sentencing of Ms. Grace, a woman Pastor of Rinpi Baptist Church, Chin State, to two years imprisonment with hard labor by the Burmese military junta, the State Peace and Development Council.

 

27 year-old Ms Grace was arrested on February 13, 2001 by the Burmese army on unjustifiable allegations that she simpathized and supported members of the Chin National Front. For months, she was detained in Haka army camp, where there is no adequate and separate prison facilities for women. Reports say that Pastor Gracy had been sent to Kalewa Hard Labor Camp on July 17,2001 where she will serve her two-year sentence with hard labor.

 

We are deeply concerned about the fate of Pastor Gracy in prison. We vehemently condemn and deplore this atrocious and inhuman sentence imposed on her. The arrest of Pastor Gracy is a sheer intent of the Burmese military to target Christian leader for false accusations to discourage Chin Christians from freely practicing their faith.

 

The verdict to convict Pastor Gracy of two-year rigorous imprisonment has been reached by a highly non-independent court, which acts at the helm of the Burmese junta. The denial of Pastor Gracy of her right to a fair and impartial trial, and of her civil rights constitute gross violations under Burma’s international human rights obligations particularly, Convention on Elimination of All kinds of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), which it ratified. We express our solidarity with Pastor Gracy and other Chin women who are victims of violations and suppression by the Burmese military junta.

 

We urge the Burmese military junta, State Peace and Development Council:

 

To immediately and unconditionally release Pastor Gracy

 

To respect human rights of Chin women

 

To stop committing atrocities against Chin women

 

To stop persecuting Chin Christians

 

Undersign Women groups:

 

1. Women Department ( Chin Human Rights Organization )

 

2. Chin Women Organization ( CWO, New Delhi, India )

 

3. Women Department ( Chin Baptist Mission Church, Washington D C, USA)

 

4. Women Department ( Dallas Chin Baptist Church, Texas, USA)

 

5. Women Department ( Chin Community Church, Indianapolis, USA)

 

6. Women Department ( Chin Christian Fellowship, New Delhi, India)

 

7. Chin Women Group ( Sweden )

 

8. Chin Women Group ( Australia )

 

9. Chin Women Group ( Ottawa Chin Christian Fellowship, Canada )

 

Urgent Action Called By Amnesty International

 

PUBLIC AI Index: ASA 16/020/2001

 

UA 187/01 Fear of torture or ill-treatment / health concern 26 July 2001

 

MYANMAR Pastor Gracy [f], aged 27

 

Pastor Gracy, a 27-year-old political prisoner who is reportedly in poor health, has been transferred to a hard labour camp where conditions are particularly severe. Amnesty International is concerned for her safety and wellbeing.

 

On 18 July Pastor Gracy was transferred to Mawlaik-Kalay Akyin Htawng labour camp near Kalaymyo in Sagaing Division, where conditions are said to be extremely harsh. Pastor Gracy, who is a member of the Chin ethnic minority, had been sentenced to two years’ hard labour on 6 July by a court in Haka, the capital of the Chin State. She was found guilty of having provided accommodation to the Chin National Front (CNF), a Chin armed opposition group fighting the central Myanmar government. Amnesty International is concerned that she did not receive a fair trial.

 

Pastor Gracy was initially arrested on 13 February. She had been detained at Haka army camp, where there are believed to be no separate facilities for women. In May, she was reported to be in poor health.

 

Pastor Gracy, who studied theology at the Chin Christian College in Haka, is the minister of Rinpi Baptist Church in central Chin State. Ninety percent of the Chin people, who inhabit the Chin State and neighbouring Sagaing Division in the far west of Myanmar, are Christian. They are frequently persecuted by the mostly Buddhist, ethnic Burman authorities. Chin pastors have reportedly been arrested, crosses and churches destroyed, and Christian civilians subjected to forced labour.

 

Pastor Gracy’s elder brother Pu Hoi Mang was sentenced to two years’ hard labour last year for supporting the CNF. He is also serving his sentence at Mawlaik-Kalay prison camp. He and pastor Gracy are the only known political prisoners to be held in hard labour camps.

 

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

 

There are dozens of prison labour camps in Myanmar, where the vast majority of labourers are convicted criminals. Conditions vary considerably, but some camps are particularly severe, and scores of prisoners are known to have died of treatable diseases such as malaria. Forced labour duties in prison camps include breaking rocks in quarries and building roads.

 

Some ethnic minority armed opposition groups, including the CNF, continue to fight against the central authorities of Myanmar, although the government states that 17 cease-fires have been agreed with such groups. In areas where the Myanmar army carries out counter-insurgency activity, including Chin state, civilians are sometimes extrajudicially executed, forcibly relocated or used as forced labour.

 

In October 2000 the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC, Myanmar’s military government) and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) embarked on confidential talks after several years of increasing confrontation between the government and the opposition.

 

Trials of political prisoners in Myanmar do not meet international standards for fair trial procedures. In 2001 over 150 political prisoners have been released, but hundreds of others remain imprisoned. Prison conditions are harsh, and the lack of sanitation, adequate medical care, food or water continue to be ongoing concerns. In the last two weeks two political prisoners have reportedly died in custody.

 

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send appeals to arrive as quickly as possible, in English or your own language

 

-urging the authorities to ensure that Pastor Gracy is not tortured, ill-treated or subjected to forced labour;

 

– calling for her to be granted access to proper medical care, lawyers, and her family;

 

– asking the authorities for further information about the charges brought against her, including the legislation used to sentence her;

 

-asking the authorities for further information about her trial, including whether she had proper access to legal counsel and whether she was allowed adequate time and resources to prepare a defence.

 

APPEALS TO:

 

Lieutenant General Khin Nyunt, Secretary 1 State Peace and Development Council

 

c/o Director of Defense Services Intelligence (DDSI)

 

Ministry of Defense, Signal Pagoda Road

 

Dagon Post Office

 

Yangon

 

Union of Myanmar

 

Telegrams: General Khin Nyunt, Yangon, Myanmar

 

Telexes: 21316

 

Faxes: + 95 1 222 950

 

Salutation: Your Excellency

 

Colonel Hla Min

 

Office of Strategic Studies

 

Department of International Affairs

 

c/o Ministry of Defense, Signal Pagoda Road

 

Dagon Post Office

 

Yangon

 

Union of Myanmar

 

Telegrams: Colonel Hla Min, Yangon, Myanmar

 

Telexes: 21316

 

Faxes: + 95 1 222 950

 

Salutation: Dear Colonel

 

COPIES to diplomatic representatives of MYANMAR accredited to your country. PLEASE SEND APPEALS IMMEDIATELY. Check with the International Secretariat or your section office, if sending appeals after 6 September 2001

 

 

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SCHOLAR SECTION

 

DEMOCRACY MOVEMENT TOWARDS FEDERAL UNION:

 

The Role of UNLD in the Struggle for Democracy and Federalism in Burma By Dr. Lian H. Sakhong̈ Ph.D. Uppsala University Introduction The United Nationalities League for Democracy (UNLD), an umbrella political organization of non-Burman or non-Myanmar nationalities in Burma, was formed in 1988 following the nationwide democracy movement against three decades of General Ne Win’s dictatorship. From the very beginning, the UNLD adopted a policy aimed at the establishment of a genuine federal union based on democratic rights for all citizens, political equality for all nationalities and the rights of self-determination for all member states of the Union. It openly declared that democracy without federalism would not solve the political crisis in Burma, including the civil war, which had already been fought, for four decades. Thus for the UNLD, the ultimate goal of the democratic movement in present Burma is not only to restore democratic government but to establish a genuine federal union. In other words, the UNLD views the root of political crisis in Burma today as a constitutional problem ra! ther than a purely ideological confrontation between democracy and dictatorship.

 

In this paper, I shall explore the role of the UNLD in the on-going struggle for democracy and federalism in Burma. In doing this, attention will be given to the basic principles of federalism and democratic decentralization, which of course is the goal of the movement and the aim of the UNLD. However, instead of presenting a theoretical paper on the basic principles of federalism, I shall focus my attention to the quest for federalism within the historical framework of “religious and ethnic conflicts”, so-called, in modern Burma. In this way, I shall argue that the democracy movement in Burma since the military coup d’état in 1962 is the continuation of the “federal movement” during the parliamentary democratic period in the 1950s and early 1960s. The central argument in this paper therefore will run through the military coup in 1962 as “the culmination of political process” stemming from the political crisis during the parliamentary democratic perio! d. I shall then try to point out how and why we can view the role of UNLD in present struggle as the continuation of the Supreme Council of the United Hills Peoples (SCOUHP), which played a leading role in federal movement during the late 1950s and early 1960s. Another way of putting it is to say that what the UNLD is trying to achieve at present is what the SCOUHP attempted even before the military coup in 1962. But because the federal movement led by the SCOUHP was abruptly interrupted by the military coup in 1962, the struggle for democracy and federalism needs to be continued today.

 

Background History

 

The Union of Burma is a nation-state of diverse ethnic nations (ethnic nationalities or nationalities), founded in 1947 at the Panglong Conference by pre-colonial independent ethnic nationalities such as the Chin, Kachin, Karen, Karenni, Mon, Rakhine (Arakan), Myanmar (Burman), and Shan , based on the principle of equality. As it was founded by formerly independent peoples in 1947 through an agreement, the boundaries of the Union of Burma today are not historical. Rather, the Union of Burma, or Burma in its current form, was born of the historic Panglong Agreement signed in 1947.

 

In order to understand the complex background of religious and ethnic diversity in Burma, one might firstly note that there is an age-old identification of Burman/Myanmar ethnicity and Buddhism, which has been the dominant ideological and political force in what is today called the Union of Burma or Myanmar. Secondly, there are other ethnic nations or nationalities such as the Mon, Rakhine (Arakan), and Shan, who are Buddhists, but feel dominated by the Burman/Myanmar majority. Thirdly, there are ethnic nationalities who are predominantly Christians within a Baptist tradition. The most prominent Christian groups are the Chin, Kachin and Karen. They — like the Mon and the Shan — form ethnic communities which transcend the boundaries of the modern nation-states of Burma, Bangladesh, India, China, and Thailand. The present state of relations between majority Burman/Myanmar Buddhists and minority Christian ethnic groups must be understood against the backgroun! d of colonial history.

 

The British annexed “Burma Proper”, i.e., the Burman or Myanmar Kingdom, in three Anglo-Burmese wars fought in 1824-26, 1852 and 1885. As a result, the British took over Burma Proper in three stages: the Rakhine (Arakan) and Tenasserim coastal provinces in 1826, Lower Burma (previously Mon Kingdom) including Rangoon — the present capital of Burma — in 1852, and Upper Burma including Mandalay, the last capital of the Burman Kingdom in 1885. When the last King of Burma, Thibaw, was deposed and exiled to India, the possessions of the Burman Kingdom — including semi-independent tributaries of the Burman king, such as the Arakan and the Mon — were transferred to the British. However, this arrangement did not include the Chin, Kachin, Shan and Karenni, who were completely independent peoples, and had never been conquered by the Burman King. Thus, the British separately conquered or “pacified” them during a different period of time. The Chin people, for instanc! e, were “pacified” only ten years after the fall of Mandalay, and their land Chinram, or Chinland, was not declared a part of British India until 1896.

 

During the colonial period, the British applied two different administrative systems: “direct rule” and “indirect rule”. The first was applied to the peoples and areas they conquered together with the Burman Kingdom, i.e., “Burma Proper”. “Indirect rule”, on the other hand, was applied to the peoples who were “pacified” or added by treaty (the Shan principalities, for example) to the British empire after the annexation of the Burman kingdom. Under the British policy of “indirect rule”, the traditional princes and local chiefs of the Chin, Kachin and the Shan were allowed to retain a certain level of administrative and judiciary powers within their respective territories.

 

In 1937, when the Burma Act of 1935 was officially implemented, Burma Proper was separated from British India and given a Governor of its own. The 1935 Act also created a government structure for Burma Proper, with a Prime Minister and cabinet. The Legislative Council for Burma Proper was also created, although essential power remained firmly in the hands of the British Governor and Westminster. From that time on, Burma Proper was commonly known as “Ministerial Burma”. In contrast to this, the term “Excluded Areas” was used to denote the Chin, Kachin and Shan States (Federated Shan States), which were not only subject to “indirect rule”, but also excluded from the Legislative Council of Ministerial Burma. The term “Excluded Areas”, however, was superseded by the term “Frontier Areas” when the British government created a “Frontier Area Administration” soon after the Second World War.

 

The Second World War and the Japanese invasion of Burma brought British rule to an abrupt end. Accompanied and helped by the Burma Independence Army (BIA) led by General Aung San (later, U Aung San, upon leaving the armed services), the Japanese easily eliminated the British and captured Rangoon. In May 1942, the Governor of Burma fled to Simla, India, and established the British Burma government in exile there. Having successfully driven the British into India, the Japanese occupied Burma Proper and set up a military administration along their lines of advance.

 

When the BIA were allowed by the Japanese to be stationed in the Irrawady delta where the majority of the population were Karen, who were loyal to the British, communal violence erupted between the Karen and the Burman. The Japanese ended the bloodbath but only after more than 1,000 Karen civilians lost their lives. Because of that event, a full-scale war broke out between the Karen and the newly independent Burmese government in 1949. This ethnic conflict was the beginning of civil war in modern Burma, in which hundreds of thousands of lives have been lost over more than five decades and which is still in progress. As will be explained, only in the case of the Karen, can the term “ethnic conflict” be applied, but not, for example, the Chin, Kachin, Shan, etc..

 

After expelling the Japanese, the British returned to Burma in the spring of 1945. They outlined their long-term plan for the future of Burma in the form of a White Paper. This plan provided for a three-year period of direct rule under the British Governor, during which economic rehabilitation from the ravages of war was to be undertaken. Next, the Legislative Council of Ministerial Burma would be restored in accordance with the 1935 Burma Act. Only after the elections had been held under this Act would the legislature be invited to frame a new constitution “which would eventually provide the basis on which Burma would be granted dominion status.” For the Frontier Areas, the White Paper provided a means of maintaining the pre-war status quo. The Karenni (Kayah) State was still bound by the pre-colonial treaty as an independent nation. Since the Chinram, the Kachin State and the Federated Shan States were excluded from the administration of Burma Proper, they would, according to the White Paper, have “a special regime under the Governor”. When Stevenson became the Director of the Frontier Areas Administration, he even promoted plans to create a “United Frontier Union” for the Chin, Kachin, Karen, Shan and other non-Burman nationalities. However, the plans did not come to fruition as the British Conservative Party of Prime Minister Winston Churchill, lost the general election in 1945.

 

In the early stage of the post-war period, the British strongly highlighted the rights and interests of the Chin, Kachin, Karen and other non-Burman nationalities from the Frontier Areas who had loyally defended the British Empire during the war. But when the Labour Government came to power, Britain reversed its policy, and Burma’s political agenda became largely a matter of bilateral negotiation between the British Labor government and U Aung San’s AFPFL (Anti-Fascist People’s Freedom League). Thus, in December 1946, the Labor government invited only U Aung San, the undisputed leader of the Burmese nationalist movement. The delegation, which did not include a single representative from the Frontier Areas, went to London to discuss “the steps that would be necessary to constitute Burma a sovereign independent nation.” Since Attlee’s Labour Government had already prepared to grant Burma’s independence either within or without the Commonwealth, the London talk! s were largely a formality, at most putting into more concrete form the principles to which they had already agreed. It might be said — as Churchill stated in parliament — the people of the Frontier Area were abandoned by the British and left to salvage what they could of their former independent status with U Aung San and the AFPFL.

 

The Question of Non-Burman Nationalities

 

At the London Talks in December 1946, the Burman delegates demanded that “the amalgamation of the Frontier Areas and Ministerial Burma should take place at once, and that the Governor’s responsibility for the Frontier Areas should end.” As noted already, the London Talks was bilateral negotiation between the British Labor government and Aung San’s AFPFL without a single representative from non-Burman nationalities. Although there were at least three Karen members in the Constituent Assembly of the Interim Burmese government, none of them were included in the London Talks. Instead, Aung San included several councilors, civil servants and politicians in the delegation. He even included his main rival politicians such as U Saw and Ba Sein.

 

On the demand of amalgamation of Frontier Areas with the Ministerial Burma, the British countered the AFPFL’s demand with the following position: The HMG for their part are bound by solemn undertakings to the people of those Areas to regard their wishes in this matter, and they have deep obligations to those peoples for the help that they gave during the war. According to the information available to HMG the Frontier Areas are not yet ready or willing to amalgamate with Burma Proper.

 

During the talk, Attlee received a cable from the Shan Sawbwa (princes), through the Frontier Areas Administration and the Governor, stating that Aung San and his delegation did not represent the Shan and the Frontier Areas. Stevenson, Director of Frontier Areas Administration, also cabled to London, saying that, We understand that the Hon’ble U Aung San and the Burman Mission visiting London will seek the control of FA. If this is the case we wish to state emphatically that neither the Hon’ble Aung San nor his colleagues has any mandate to speak on behalf of FA.

 

In short, Aung San and his delegation had no right to discuss the future of the Frontier Areas. Indeed, it might rightly be said that Aung San and his delegation neither represented nor had the right to discuss the future of the peoples of the Frontier Areas, especially the Chin, Kachin, and Shan because they were independent peoples before the colonial period and were conquered separately by the British, and they were not part of Ministerial Burma (Burma Proper). Aung San could therefore legitimately represent only Burma Proper, or the Ministerial Burma, which belonged to an old Burman or Myanmar kingdom before colonial period. In the pre-colonial period, no Burman or Myanmar King had ever conquered, for instance, the Chin people and their land, Chinram. That was the reason the British had applied two different administrative systems. Thus, when Burma and India were to be given independence by the British, the Chinram was not to be handed over to either India or Burma since it was not annexed by the British as a part of either country. They had the fu! ll right to be a sovereign independent state by themselves when the British withdrew its imperial administration from British India and Burma. In a nutshell, Aung San did not and could not represent the Chin and/or other nationalities from the Frontier Areas without any mandate from the peoples themselves.

 

During this critical period, U Aung San showed not only his honesty but also his ability for great leadership, which eventually won the trust of the non-Burman nationalities. He acknowledged the fact that the non-Burman nationalities from the Frontier Areas had the right to regain their freedom, independence, and sovereign status because they were not the subjects of the pre-colonial Burman or Myanmar Kingdom. Thus, they had the very right of self-determination: to decide on their own whether they would like to gain independence directly from Great Britain, and to found their own sovereign nation-states, or to jointly obtain independence with Burma, or even to remain as Provinces of the Commonwealth of Great Britain. Aung San reassessed his position and bravely and wisely put his signature to the historic agreement, the Aung San-Attlee Agreement, signed on January 27,1947. This historic agreement spelled out the position of the Frontier Areas vis-B-vis indep! endence that was to be granted Ministerial Burma, as below:

 

8. Frontier Areas:

 

( b ) The leaders and the representatives of the peoples of the Frontier Areas shall be asked, either at the Panglong Conference to be held at the beginning of next month or at a special conference to be convened for the purpose of expressing their views upon the form of association with the government of Burma which they consider acceptable during the transition period . . .

 

( c ) After the Panglong Conference, or the special conference, His Majesty’s government and the government of Burma will agree upon the best method of advancing their common aims in accordance with the expressed views of the peoples of the Frontier Areas.

 

However, on that particular issue of non-Burman nationalities, two members of the Burman delegation refused to sign the Aung San-Attlee Agreement. One was U Saw, the former Prime Minister, and the other was Thakin Ba Sein, who had shared with Thakin Tun Ok the leadership of the minority faction of Dobama Asi-Azone after it split earlier (in 1938). In their view, the clause concerning the Frontier Area in the Agreement carried an implicit threat of “dividing Burma into two parts.” Thus, they not only ignored the history of non-Burman nationalities such as the Chin, Kachin and Shan, but also the will of the people from the Frontier Areas. Upon their return to Rangoon, U Saw and Thakin Ba Sein joined Ba Maw and Paw Tun, another former Prime Minister, formed the National Opposition Front, and accused Aung San of having sold out for the sake of holding office. U Aung San, however, was not unduly troubled by the accusations of his political opponents and plunged straight into negotiation with pre-colonial independent nationalities such as the Chin, Kachin and Shan. As mentioned above, the Aung San-Attlee Agreement had left the future of the Frontier Areas to the decision of its people.

 

Jointly gaining Independence with Burma After having successfully negotiated with the British, U Aung San turned his attention to the non-Burman nationalities and persuaded them to jointly obtain independence with Burma. He promised the frontier peoples separate status with full autonomy within the Burma Union, active participation at the centre within a Senate-like body, protection of minority rights, and the right of secession. He also promised to make the agreed terms into law as guarantee of their right for the future, and told them they need have no fear of the Burman. The negotiations between Aung San, as the sole representative of the interim Burmese government, and the Chin, Kachin and Shan, were held at the Panglong Conference in February 1947.

 

U Aung San successfully persuaded the Chin, Kachin, and Shan to join Independent Burma as equal, co-independent partners, and the historic Panglong Agreement was thus signed on February 12, 1947. The essence of the Panglong Agreement – the Panglong Spirit — was that the Chin, Kachin, and Shan did not surrender their rights of self-determination and sovereignty to the Burman. They signed the Panglong Agreement as a means to speed up their own search for freedom together with the Burman and other nationalities in what became the Union of Burma. Thus, the preamble of the Panglong Agreement declares: Believing that freedom will be more speedily achieved by the Shans, the Kachins, and the Chins by their immediate co-operation with the interim Burmese government.

 

The Panglong Agreement therefore represented a joint vision of the future of the pre-colonial independent peoples — namely the Chin, Kachin, Shan and the interim Burmese government led by Chief Minister Aung San, who came into power in August 1946 according to the Burma Act of 1935. The interim Burmese government was a government for the region formerly known as Burma Proper or Ministerial Burma, which included such non-Burman nationalities as the Mon, Rakhine (Arakan), and Karen. The Arakan and Mon were included because they were occupied by the British not as independent peoples but as the subjects of the kingdom of Burman or Myanmar. The Karens were included in the Legislative Council of Ministerial Burma according to the 1935 Burma Act because the majority of the Karens (more than two-thirds of the population) were living in delta areas side by side with the Burmans. Since these peoples were included in the Legislative Council of Ministerial Burma, U Au! ng San could represent them in Panglong as the head of their government. Thus, the Panglong Agreement should be viewed as an agreement to found a new sovereign, independent nation-state between peoples from pre-colonial independent nations of what they then called Frontier Areas and Burma Proper, who in principle had the right to regain their independence directly from Great Britain, and to form their own respective nation-states. In other words, the Panglong Agreement was an agreement signed between the peoples of a post-colonial nation-state-to-be. Ever since the Union of Burma gained independence in 1948, the date the Panglong Agreement was signed has been celebrated as Union Day. The observance of February12th as Union Day means the mutual recognition of the Chin, Kachin, Shan and other nationalities, including the Burmans, as “different people historically and traditionally due to their differences in their languages as well as their cultural life”. It is also the recognition of the distinct national identity of the Chin, Kachin, Shan, and other nationalities who had the right to gain their own independence separately and to found their own nation-state separately. In other words, it is the recognition of pre-colonial independent status of the Chin, Kachin, and Shan, and other nationalities as well as their post-colonial status of nation-state-to-be.

 

Condition Underpinning the Creation of the Union of Burma

 

According to the Aung San-Attlee Agreement, the Frontier Areas Committee of Enquiry (FACE) was formed to inquire through an additional and specific consultation about the wishes of the frontier peoples. The British government appointed Col. D. R. Rees-William as Chairman of the FACE. Since the committee conducted its inquiry after the signing of the Panglong Agreement during March and April 1947, the evidence they heard was generally in favour of cooperation with Burma but under the condition of:

 

Equal rights with Burman,

 

Full internal autonomy for Hill Areas [ that is, ethnic national states] , and The right of secession from Burma at any time.

 

The FACE finally concluded its report to the Government that the majority of witnesses who supported cooperation with Burma demanded the “right of secession by the States at any time”.

 

The FACE report, particularly the right of secession, was strongly criticized by such Burman nationalists as U Saw and Thakhin Ba Sein who had earlier refused to sign the Aung San-Attlee Agreement. They accused Aung San of having given up Burman territory and argued that the Frontier Areas were just the creation of the colonial policy of “divide and rule”. U Aung San dismissed this criticism as historically unfounded and politically unwise. And he said, “The right of secession must be given, but it is our duty to work and show (our sincerity) so that they don’t wish to leave.” And in keeping with his promise to the Chin, Kachin and Shan leaders at the Panglong Conference to make agreed term into law, the right of secession was provided for in the 1947 Union Constitution of Burma, Chapter X, Article 201, and 202:

 

Chapter (X): The Right of Secession

 

201. Save as otherwise expressly provided in this Constitution or in any Act of Parliament made under section 199, every state shall have the right to secede from the Union in accordance with the condition hereinafter prescribed. 202. The right of secession shall not be exercised within ten years from the date on which this Constitution comes into operation.

 

Although the “right of secession” was put into law in the Union Constitution, Burma did not become a genuine federal union.

 

The End of Aung San’s Policies of Pluralism and Federalism

 

At the Panglong Conference in 1947, the Chin, Kachin, Shan and other non-Burman nationalities were promised, as Silverstein observes, the right to exercise political authority of [ administrative, judiciary, and legislative powers in their own autonomous national states] and to preserve and protect their language, culture, and religion in exchange for voluntarily joining the Burman in forming a political union and giving their loyalty to a new state. Unfortunately, U Aung San, who persuaded the Chin, Kachin, Shan and other non-Burman nationalities to join Independent Burma as equal partners, was assassinated by U Saw on July 19, 1947. He was succeeded by U Nu as leader of the AFPFL. When U Nu became the leader of the AFPFL, Burman politics shifted in a retro-historical direction, backward toward the Old Kingdom of Myanmar or Burman. The new backward-looking policies did nothing to accommodate non-Myanmar/Burman nationalities who had agreed to join Independent Burma only for the sake of “speeding up freedom”.

 

As a leader of the AFPFL, the first thing U Nu did was to give an order to U Chan Htun to re-draft U Aung San’s version of the Union Constitution, which had already been approved by the AFPFL Convention in May 1947. U Chan Htun’s version of the Union Constitution was promulgated by the Constituent Assembly of the interim government of Burma in September 1947. Thus, the fate of the country and the people, especially the fate of the non-Burman/Myanmar nationalities, changed dramatically between July and September 1947. As a consequence, Burma did not become a genuine federal union, as U Chan Htun himself admitted to historian Hugh Tinker. He said, “Our country, though in theory federal, is in practice unitary.”

 

On the policy of religion, U Nu also reversed U Aung San’s policy after the latter was assassinated. Although Aung San, the hero of independence and the founder of the Union of Burma, had opted for a “secular state” with a strong emphasis on “pluralism” and the “policy of unity in diversity” in which all different religious and racial groups in the Union could live together peacefully and harmoniously, U Nu opted for a more confessional and exclusive policy on religion. The revision of Aung San’s version of the Union Constitution thus proved to be the end of his policy for a secular state and pluralism in Burma, which eventually led to the promulgation of Buddhism as the state religion of the Union of Burma in 1961.

 

For the Chin and other non-Burman nationalities, the promulgation of Buddhism as the “state religion of the Union of Burma” in 1961 was the greatest violation of the Panglong Agreement in which U Aung San and the leaders of the non-Burman nationalities agreed to form a Union based on the principle of equality. They therefore viewed the passage of the state religion bill not only as religious issue, but also as a constitutional problem, in that this had been allowed to happen. In other words, they now viewed the Union Constitution as an instrument for imposing “a tyranny of majority”, not as their protector. Thus, the promulgation of Buddhism as the state religion of Burma became not a pious deed, but a symbol of the tyranny of the majority under the semi-unitary system of the Union Constitution.

 

There were two different kinds of reactions to the state religion reform from different non-Burman nationalities. The first reaction came from more radical groups who opted for an armed rebellion against the central government in order to gain their political autonomy and self-determination. The most serious armed rebellion as a direct result of the adoption of Buddhism as state religion was that of the Kachin Independence Army, which emerged soon after the state religion of Buddhism was promulgated in 1961. The “Christian Kachin”, as Graver observes, “saw the proposal for Buddhism to be the state religion as further evidence of the Burmanization [Myanmarization] of the country,” which they had to prevent by any means, including an armed rebellion. The Chin rebellion, led by Hrang Nawl, was also related to the promulgation of Buddhism as the state religion, but the uprising was delayed until 1964 owing to tactical problems. Thus, the Chin rebellion wa! s mostly seen as the result of the 1962 military coup, rather than the result of the promulgation of Buddhism as the state religion in 1961.

 

The second reaction came from more moderate groups, who opted for constitutional means of solving their problems, rather than an armed rebellion. The most outstanding leader among these moderate groups was Sao Shwe Thaike of Yawnghwe, a prominent Shan Sawbwa who was elected as the first President of the Union of Burma. Although a devout Buddhist, he strongly opposed the state religion bill because he saw it as a violation of the Panglong Agreement. As a president of the Supreme Council of United Hills People (SCOUHP), formed during the Panglong Conference, he invited leaders of not only the Chin, Kachin and Shan, the original members of the SCOUHP, but also other non-Burman nationalities — the Karen, Kayah, Mon, and Rakhine (Arakan) — to Taunggyi, the capital of Shan State, to discuss constitutional problems. Unfortunately, these problems still remain unsolved. The conference was attended by 226 delegates and came to be known as the 1961 Taunggyi Conferenc! e, and the movement itself was known later as the Federal Movement.

 

The Federal Movement in 1961-62

 

At the Taunggyi Conference, all delegates, except three who belonged to U Nu’s party, agreed to amend the Union Constitution based on Aung San’s draft, which the AFPFL convention had approved in May 1947, as noted already. At the AFPFL convention, U Aung San asked, “Now when we build our new Burma shall we build it as a Union or as Unitary State?…. “In my opinion”, he answered, “it will not be feasible to set up a Unitary State. We must set up a Union with properly regulated provisions to safeguard the right of the national minorities.” According to U Aung San’s version of the constitution, the Union would be composed of National States, or what he called “Union States” such as the Chin, Kachin, Shan and Burman States and other National States such as Karen, Karenni (Kayah), Mon and Rakhine (Arakan) States. “The original idea”, as Dr. Maung Maung observes, “was that the Union States should have their own separate constitutions, their own organs! of state, viz. Parliament, Government and Judiciary.”

 

U Chan Htun had reversed all these principles of the Federal Union after Aung San was assassinated. According to U Chan Htun’s version of the Union Constitution, the Burma Proper or the ethnic Burman/ Myanmar did not form their own separate National State; instead they combined the power of Burman/Myanmar National State with the whole sovereign authority of the Union of Burma. Thus, while one ethnic group, the Burman/ Myanmar, controlled the sovereign power of the Union, that is, legislative, judiciary, and administrative powers of the Union of Burma; the rest of the ethnic nationalities who formed their own respective National States became almost like the “vassal states” of the ethnic Burman or Myanmar. This constitutional arrangement was totally unacceptable to the Chin, Kachin, Shan who signed the Panglong Agreement on the principle of equality, and also for other nationalities.

 

They therefore demanded at the 1961 Taunggyi Conference the amendment of the Union Constitution and the formation a genuine Federal Union composed of National States, with the full rights of political autonomy, i.e., legislative, judiciary and administrative powers within their own National States, and self-determination including the right of secession. They also demanded separation between the political power of the Burman/Myanmar National State and the sovereign power of the Union, i.e., the creation of a Burman or Myanmar National State within the Union.

 

The second point they wanted to amend on the Union Constitution was the structure of Chamber of Nationalities. The original idea of the creation of the Chamber of Nationalities was that it was not only to the safeguard of the rights of non-Burman nationalities but also for the symbolic and real equality, envisaged at the Panglong Conference. Thus, what they wanted was that each National State should have the right to send equal representatives to the Chamber of Nationalities, no matter how big or small their National State might

 

 

Rhododendron News

VOL.IV No.IV MAY-JUNE 2001

Contents

 

Human Rights:

 

Interview with an excaped prisoner from Sayasan Hard Labor Camp

 

Inter View with a Chin NGO Worker

 

Refugees:

 

A Cry Unheard

 

Letter & Press Release:

 

No Shelter for Chin Refugees In Malaysia

 

Chin Students and Youth Organization’s Letter to UNHCR Office, Kuala Lumpur

 

Congressman Underwood Secures HHS Refugee Aid For Myanmar Nationals in Guam

 

CHRO’ Oral Intervention on 57th Session UNCHR

 

Facts & Arguments:

 

The Unkept Promises

 

Fleeing Burma Where Life is At Risk And Liberty Curtail

 

Human Rights

 

Interview with an escaped prisoner from Saya San Hard Labor Camp

(Rhododendron Note: Saya San Force Labour Camp is located in Kabaw valley of Sagaing Division, Western Burma )

 

 

Name : Thang Hnin (name changed)

Town/Village : Haka

Age : 41

Marital Status : Married with three children

Nationality : Chin

Religion : Christian

Interview date : 28/3/2001 at Aizawl.

 

CHRO: Why were you arrested?

 

Thang Hnin : I was arrested by the Military Intelligence for carrying teak lumber without permission. I used to obtain a permission for doing this business on previous occasions but unfortunately I did not have one with me when I was arrested.

 

CHRO: Where were you kept after your arrest?

 

Thang Hnin: After being arrested, the MI had the Forestry Department lay charges against me and the court sentenced me to two and a half years in prison. After being convicted, I was sent to Kaley prison for three months after which I was again sent to Saya San Hard Labor Camp.

 

CHRO: Can you tell us about the names of officials in charge of the camps and how they behaved in terms of treating the prisoners?

 

Than Hnin: Captain Soe Win was in charge of the Camp. Just below him were one lieutenant and a 2nd lieutenant. I can’t remember the names of the rest officials. They all are from the Jail Department under the Ministry of Home Affairs. All of them are heavy drinkers. The worst thing is that we got beaten up whenever they were intoxicated. Capatian Soe Win was a very violent and brutal person and so were the rest officials.

 

CHRO: Can you give us a sense of how you keep up with in the prison?

 

Thang Hnin: We didn’t have to work in both Haka and Kaley Prisons. However, once we landed in the Saya San Hard Labor Camp, we realize that there was hardly any chance a person would survive.

 

CHRO: Can you tell us a little bit about your experience and how difficult was the work there in the Camp?

 

Thang Hnin: There are many things to say about. I don’t know how to even describe. But to describe it in brief, there were over 450 prisoners in the Saya San Hard Labor Camp, most of whom were Burmese Amy deserters. Inmates from Monywa and Kaley prisons were usually sent to this camp to serve hard labor sentence.

 

CHRO: What sort of work did you do?

 

Thang Hnin: The most common work was digging drains for irrigations, digging soils, ploughing & tilling rice fields, cutting firewood and preparing char coals. The paddy fields we ploughed were primarily for their own use and the jail officials often sold the rice for their personal ends. Charcoals that we made were also for the personal use of the jail officials. Since there were no oxen or buffalos available for the tilling, three people have to pull the yoke like animals.

 

CHRO: What is the time of your work hours and how do you keep up with that?

 

Thang Hnin: We never had a rest time. Between 4-5 a.m. in the morning, they conducted regular checks to make sure everyone is present. Beginning from 5 a.m. we work until 12 noon. We are given a breakfast break at 12 noon and the work resumed at 1 p.m and lasted until 5 in the evening. The work proceeds even on Sunday. Even sick people are not allowed to take a rest. We are whipped if we take even a short break during the work. We had to rush to work if called even when we are having meals. We can’t rest no matter how hot the sun is or no matter how hard it rains. It makes things even more difficult as our feet are chained with a two-Kilo-weigh manacle. The shackles remained fastened on our feet from the day we landed in the camp until we got out. It remained attached to our feet wherever we are – during work or at bedtime. We had to work even at night in preparation for the arrival of high officials from Rangoon. I remember the Home Minister and Deputy Home Minister visiting our camp on separate occasions. There were other high officials visiting the camp but I can’t remember their names.

 

CHRO: What type of food were you fed in the Camp?

 

Thang Hnin: The foods we received were nothing better than those we usually feed pigs with. The rice was half un-husked and husked grain mingled together. Everyone received only a handful each. We have no more to eat than just a handful of those. We never had curry or soup to go with the food. There is nothing else to express than it was very very bad.

 

CHRO: Do you receive any medical treatment when you are sick?

 

Thang Hnin: No, not at all. We have to work even when we are sick not to mention the medical treatment. They wouldn’t let us rest just because we are sick. Sometimes people took a rest out of exhaustion from sickness. But as soon as the guard discovered them they whipped them and beat them up. Many prisoners died from this. There was absolutely no medicine to be seen in the camp.

 

CHRO: How many prisoners do you think died while you were in the camp?

 

Thang Hnin: About 70 of them died in only the three-month period that I was there. It was almost an average of one person per day that died in three months. There might even have been more deaths that I didn’t know of.

 

CHRO: What was the most common cause of death?

 

Thang Hnin: How on earth could a human being endure those kinds of conditions? The work was extremely hard and the food was extremely bad, and in addition we couldn’t rest during sickness and there were no medical treatment. Everyone was just waiting to die.

 

CHRO: How were they buried after they died?

 

Thang Hnin: They were buried in a grave of about one foot deep. After about one week, the smells of the corpses attracted strayed dogs and pigs and the bodies are mutilated and eaten up by these animals. It was extremely sad to see this situation. The relatives were usually informed of the death but with a different story. They said that the prisoners died of sickness after being carefully treated in hospital. It was just a bunch of lies that the relatives were informed of. I wonder how could they lie with such things while we never even saw medicines. (Note: While talking about this he becomes too emotional).

 

CHRO: Was there any discrimination in the camp on ground of religion?

 

Thang Hnin: Absolutely! There was no room for people like me who are Christians. We were told that once we were in the prison we ought to follow the Burman religion, Buddhism.

 

CHRO: Wasn’t there any way in which you could be eased from doing hard works?

 

Thang Hnin: It was only the question of whether we have money or not. Money can do anything. If someone had more than 50,00 Kyats to give to the authorities, then he is made a Section Commander, which means that he no longer had to work. If someone from among the prisoners wanted to be an Office Staff, he had to pay 500,00 Kyats to the authorities. Anyone being able to pay that amount is automatically made the Office Staff. (Note: There are 10 Office Staffs in the Camps with half the number being from the Jail Department and another half from among the prisoners).

 

CHRO: How did you escape?

 

Thang Hnin: I simply could no longer bear the conditions that I took the risk to escape. It was on the night of 29th January 2000 after everyone was asleep when I made the escape. I was among those lucky enough to be an Office Staff; I fled while there was nobody in the Office.

 

CHRO: Where did you flee?

 

Thang Hnin: I fled to the Indian side. Our camp was located just one mile away from the Indian border and I just ran desperately towards the border until I reached Manipur State. I stayed in Manipur with one of the local families for eight months. I did not even speak the local language so I had to use body language and gesticulations to communicate with them. After eight months I came here to Aizawl of Mizoram State.

 

CHRO: Had there been any other prisoners who escaped like you did?

 

Thang Hnin: There had been many incidents in the past where prisoners tried to escape because they could no longer bear the conditions. But there were many people who are not lucky enough and were recaptured. Only a few of them had been lucky enough to survive from the beatings and torture after being recaptured. Most of them died from the torture. Those who survived these tortures were usually given additional one year prison term.

 

CHRO: Can you give us a picture of how you lived in the camp?

 

Thang Hnin: There are three prison hostels. When we sleep, there was no space left so as to be able to stretch our legs. But when we tried to bend our legs, again the space become too tight for us. There were two minor prisoners who are under 18. Most of us were between the ages of 20 to 40. If we want to shit, we have to do it in an open atmosphere where every sees us.

 

CHRO: How do you plan to move on?

 

Thang Hnin: The future is too grim. Everything is like closed for me. I don’t know how I am going to look after my wife and my children.

 

Interview With NGO Worker From Burma

 

 

 

“Mr. Green” Male.

From: Chin State.

Occupation: training officer for an NGO.

Education: BA, Mandalay University.

Ethnicity: Chin.

Religion: Baptist.

Left Burma: December 2000.

 

Q: Why did you decide to leave Burma?

 

A: I was afraid I’d be chased by the Burmese military. I was told by my uncle that I was going to be arrested by the Burmese military. [because he helped to get a list of political prisoners to give to the Red Cross].

 

Q: Had you had problems with the authorities before?

 

A: Yes, I did. While I gave the training about the NGO. I showed my card from the NGO to the military, but they did not know that card or about the NGO, so they arrested me and detained me for one night. They got all my speeches with a recorder. That was in June 2000.

 

Q: When did you start working with the NGO?

 

A: I joined the NGO from 1999. My friend had told me there was a post at the NGO.

 

Q: What was your work with the NGO?

 

A: The aim of the NGO is the prevention of HIV infection. So we worked for the prevention of HIV, awareness of HIV and distribution of education about the prevention of HIV.

 

Q: How aware of HIV/AIDS were the people in the area?

 

A: In the town, we could teach the people and the people know about HIV. But it is not easy to travel around the remote areas, so the villagers did not know about HIV.

 

Q: How were people becoming infected by HIV?

 

A: It is hard to find out the mode of transmission in that area, because the government did not do any research about HIV infection. They want to cover all things up. So it’s hard to find which mode of transmission is the worst thing. The government always denies about HIV, so it’s very hard to find out the actual and the real situation in that region.

 

Q: What materials did you have in your program, and what language were they in?

 

A: Posters and flyers in Burmese and Chin. We didn’t have enough for each and every person, but to some extent we can do. Because of the limitations of the facilities we had not enough funds. Q: Did you have any idea of what percentage of infection was happening in that area?

 

A: It is hard to find the actual facts in the country, because the government wants to deny HIV infection. According to my own research, in one clinic in Kalemyo, I reviewed the blood tests, and 8 to 9 percent of those blood tests showed positive for HIV. That percent is of people who they think may have the HIV infection, the high risk group. In the Kale Hospital, the percentage was lower than that percentage.

 

Q: What kind of treatment could people get if they were diagnosed with HIV or if it had progressed to AIDS?

 

A: In that place, when people know that a person is infected with HIV/AIDS disease, the persons around that patient are afraid of him, of the threat of that disease, and they don’t want to take care of the patient. Even in the hospital and the clinic, they don’t want to take care of that HIV patient. The patients didn’t want to stay anymore in the hospital, because they got depression, because they were outcast by society. So the patients leave the hospital and stay at home and the patients’ parents take care of them.

 

Q: Do people advertise medicines that will cure HIV/AIDS?

 

A: No.

 

Q: Are there people who are not real doctors who give injections in the villages? A: Yes, a lot of the illegal ones. The villagers told me about it. One person, previously he worked in mining, some other place in Burma, and later on he went to Malaysia and worked, and he came back to that area [Chin State] and he was tested HIV positive. He was tested in Rangoon. And he went back to his native village near to Kale. The people in that village thought that HIV positive is the AIDS disease. He was treated by a person who practices illegally, and he gave some IV [drip] line with some glucose, some vitamins and other things to that patient. The patient is so weak, he cannot bear that IV line, and half of the bottle was left. They don’t want to discard the remaining [IV solution] so the father of that patient went to continue that IV line, because it is good for that person, it has a lot of vitamins. So the person who practices illegally, he made the IV line to the father of that patient. And later on, the patient died. After that, then the father also died, because of the infection.

 

Q: In the hospital and clinics, is the equipment clean?

 

A: In some places, they use disposable syringes. But in some places they cannot use the disposable syringes, they just flush the syringes and other needles with hot water for one time. Just one time. The hot water that they use to flush the needles and the syringes, they use that same hot water to do that again.

 

Q: Did you notice the rate of tuberculosis infection? A: I was not familiar with that. Q: Were people using narcotics by injection?

 

A: Around the Kale area, Tamu border area, I found a lot of narcotic abuse in that area. In that area they used the IV method, they got that habit from the people in mining areas, where they dig for the jade.

 

Q: What were the conditions for the workers in the mining areas?

 

A: I went to Maishu in 1994 and 1995 and Mogok in early 2000. And the conditions of the workers are very poor. Most of the time they didn’t find any stones or any valuable things so they have no money. They got depression because they didn’t get anything from that mine, sometimes and to replace their depression they use the narcotics. Some people. The heroin is sold by somebody, and they can buy it easily, they can buy it freely. And the syringe and other things, they can buy it easily. It’s available easily. They can inject it, the shot they can give by themselves or to each other, sharing.

 

Q: Do you know about mining in the Chin State in an area called Mwe Thaung at all?

 

A: I have heard the name of Mwe Thaung, before, several times, but I don’t know the work there. It’s near to Kalemyo.

 

Q: Were you visiting the mining areas for AIDS education?

 

A: I visited to Maishu mining area because I wanted to know the conditions for my own personal interest, and Mogok is for my NGO job. The trip there was not very successful. The mission of the trip was to distribute the condoms to the workers of the mining and to give the health education for the workers of the mines. But that trip was not very successful because of the people in that area were very busy with their work and they couldn’t take the time to hear that speech on prevention of HIV.

 

Q: Had the availability and affordability of condoms changed?

 

A: The NGO sold the condoms to the public at very cheap price. After that service, the condoms were more easily available than before. They can get them easily in the marketplace and anywhere around that area.

 

Q: How did you get information, news?

 

A: The main way we heard information is through the broadcasting services of foreign countries like the VOA, BBC and RFA, Radio Free Asia. And other democratic broadcasting services. The newspaper that’s issued by the government in Burma, we’re not interested about, because we couldn’t get any information about politics from that newspaper. We rely on only the foreign broadcasting service. Q: Did your office have a computer, fax, international telephone?

 

A: They had one computer for the office work, and one telephone for local use only. They had no [internet access].

 

Q: Tell about any Chin cultural problems…

 

A: They want to change our Chin people and other minorities to become Burman, by the government, all the time. Since the Burma Socialist Program Party time, the way they want is “one nation, one race, one religion, one country.” They use this method in this time by the military more than before. Even in our Chin State, our people cannot learn Chin language in the school at this time. The Chin language is not examined in the primary level. Even if they taught it in the school they didn’t cover it in the exams. The Chin language is not included on the schedule for the students. They meet only once a week [for Chin language study], only when they have extra time. In Burma, each and every state and division has the college and university. In the Chin State we have none up ’til now.

 

Q: Can you buy publications in the Chin language?

 

A: Only some books that are released by religious permission, we can get a small number of. Other magazines and books, we cannot get it. Years ago, to teach the ABC alphabet in the Chin language, we used, “A for Aung San” and “B for Bible” but the military doesn’t allow to publish that poem anymore. Because of the restriction of the military, except for the books issued by the church and the mission, there’s no other books [in Chin] available. There’s a lot of restrictions about cultural things, about shows, even in the ceremonies, we have to get the permits before. Because of all the restrictions, the cultural shows are less than before. In the country, there’s a Ministry of Religious Affairs. In the Ministry, there’s a Department of Religion. In that department there’s only a branch for Buddhism. No other religions. The government opened the school for the “Hill Regions” but in that school they teach only the Buddhism. For that school, the teacher, the headmaster, must be a Buddhist. After they implemented that project, before that my friend was principal of the school, but after that policy my friend was shifted because they didn’t want a Christian to be principal of that school. So it is clear that they want our Chin people to change to Buddhism and be made Burman. In the schools in the Chin State, they forced the students to pay homage whenever the elders come in [with a “Buddhist” gesture], and say the Buddhist words. The Burmese soldiers, whenever they went in the Chin villages, they arrest people and they persecute people whenever they want to, anywhere in the Chin State. The military check each and every household in the town, with their full equipment, about the guests. Even in my house, my sister in law was back from Rangoon because of a terminal stage illness. And some relatives and friends came to the house to stay with the patient to comfort her. But the military came to the house with their uniforms and didn’t listen to them, and the military threatened them and treated them rudely.

 

Whenever they went in the town or the village, the Burmese military opened fire in the air or somewhere, every night to alarm the people or to threaten the people. So the people, the Chins, in their heart, they have in their minds, fear and anxiety about the uniformed people who don’t speak the Chin language. Most of the people have anxiety even when they hear the footstep or song of the soldiers, or bark of the dogs.

 

In every [government] department, the head of the department is a Burman. Most of the Chin people don’t speak Burmese, so they are scolded. So they are afraid to go to the departments anymore. Even the small number of Chin people who are educated are shifted far away from the Chin State, so we don’t have our Chin people to rely on.

 

I was in Thantlang and saw when the military government destroyed the crosses that were erected to mark the Centenary of the Christian missions in the Chin State, 1999 January. At that time, the crosses erected on the hill were destroyed by the Burmese military and the pastors in Thantlang town were arrested by the Burmese military. That’s why I and other people gathered to pray in the church for the release of the pastor. Like we were making a demonstration. So the Chairman of the Chin State [military government] Col. Than Maung, came to Thantlang and ordered us to get out from the church. He didn’t step down from his car. We stood out in front of the church. He said, “don’t worship in the church and don’t make any prayer meeting anywhere. But what you need to do is work in the road for the construction.” The Burmese soldiers and police along with him forced us to scatter out. And only the pastor and the elders of the church to follow him. He told them that, “you are making the anti-government [protest]” and he was going to punish them severely. But they said they were praying in the church to make peace in the region. That’s why later on he released them.

 

One of the female pastors was warned by that colonel that she spoke to the public about anti-government, so he was going to punish her very severely. And he told all of us not to do this kind of things in the future. Otherwise he would give us very serious punishment. Imprisonment or very serious persecution. And so there’s no rights for religion or politics at all in Chin State.

 

The education system is also very poor, so there’s no way to progress for education in Chin State. There’s not enough facilities, and there’s not enough teachers. Most of the schools were built by the villages on their own. In some cases, the government forces the students to wear a [military type] uniform and forces them to shout the anti Aung San Suu Kyi slogans. The military government uses that trick.

 

When they formed the USDA, they used some students in that association too. Most of the time the students are taken by the government to be involved in sports and a lot of activities so the students didn’t have time to study in school. For example, the student festival that was held in Haka, the students practiced for the contests in sports for the whole year, so the students didn’t have time to study their subjects in school. But all the students must have examinations that year. Even though they learned nothing in school, they passed the exams.

 

Q: In the two or three months just before you left, at the end of 2000, was the army asking people to work for it?

 

A: Yes, they did, for the plantation of tea in the Chin Hills. They forced all the villagers to do the plantation. They forced the villagers to plant only tea. The military got the tea seeds from somewhere else, and the agriculture department raised the seeds, and the [seedlings] they forced them to plant. They forced them to plant it in many areas of Chin State. Most of the places were forest areas. They cleared the forests and forced them to plant the tea. They started in July and August to force them to clear the forests. They were still doing [the planting] in October, November.

 

I want to tell about the killing of two people during the construction of the road from Thantlang to Hriphi and Vuang Tu. The [government military] built a new camp in Vuang Tu village, that’s situation on the boundary between India and Burma. The built the road from Hriphi to Vuang Tu. They forced the people to work day and night. They collected the people from each and every village around the township. They brought the oil for the lights from India, and the explosives to use for construction from India, with money they collected from the villagers. That evening I was in that village when the one was killed in the road construction. March 5, 1999. The villagers dared not to say anything about that killing. The dead body was brought by the villagers into the village.

 

In that road construction, the villagers including the men, women and children, worked in that work camp. Right now, the military forces the people to serve as sentries to watch over it at night time, until today. They forced the villages [each] to collect at least ten people ready in position to carry the things of the military whenever they needed.

 

The alcohol was previously not used in Chin State very much, but at this time, the government opens to sell the alcohol everywhere, and they even force the village headpersons to sell the alcohol to the local people. They [government] get the funds from that alcohol and they destroy the morals of the young men.

 

Most of the Chins in the town and the students who are Christians are forced to collect funds for the Buddhist festivals, and they are forced to work in the compounds of the pagodas for cleaning and something like that. The government employees are forced to work in the paddy fields to grow rice for the government. In Tiddim town, the public water was cut off by the military, so the water would be used for the government’s tea plantations. So most of Tiddim has a shortage of water, and even in the township education office they got the water only once a week. That was my experience when I held training in Tiddim. In general they are doing all the things to destroy the morals and the character of the Chin young men and all Chin people.

 

 

 

Refugees:

 

A CRY UNHEARD

 

A struggle for survival, dignity, and hope of Chin refugees in India

 

By Salai Za Uk Ling , Rhododendron News, Ottawa, May 28, 2001

 

Like many other displaced persons, Chin refugees in India experience enormous daily hardship and difficulty. It seems for many of them the multitude of their problems has increased as they strive to cope with the daily difficulties they encounter while taking refuge in India.

 

Military repression and gross human rights abuses in Burma have uprooted tens of thousands of Chin people from their homes. About 1,000 refugees from Burma, mostly from Chin State are living in New Delhi under UNHCR protection, a small number out of the 500,00 estimated to be taking shelter in India.

 

Their situation in New Delhi is one of confusion, denial and uncertainty. Separated from their families, Chin refugees in India find that their life in exile seems like an endless suffering.

 

Their economic hardship, coupled with insecurity and constant harassment from the local people, is too much for the Chin refugees who have endured so much in their home country under the military regime.

 

“We are concerned at the increasing trends of distrust, hostility, harassment and even threat to our very existence from members of the local community and the police forces,”said a statement addressed to UNHCR by the All Burmese Refugees Committee (ABRC). For instance, a teenaged refugee, David Ral Bik, was arrested after being brutally gang-beaten by the local people and the police. And, entire Chin refugee families, living on the outskirts of New Delhi, were driven out of the area by the local people in the month of March 2001. When they requested intervention by UNHCR, a spokesperson for UNHCR Office said “UNHCR does not concern itself with such criminal cases,” sparking outrage from the refugee community.

 

Similar incidents are on the increase. Eviction by their landlords and harassment from the local populations are part of the Chin refugees’ daily existence. Meanwhile, dozens of new refugee applicants continue to be either denied refugee status or are compelled to wait as long as one year, without any interim assistance, while the UNHCR office reviews their cases. This has generated frustration for many refugees resulting in protests and hunger strikes to demand due treatment from UNHCR and to bring attention to their plight. Usually, UNHCR has responded to these protests by calling in the local police to threaten the refugees with arrest and thereby force them into submission.

 

In January 2001, UNHCR Office announced its intention to discontinue paying refugees the monthly Subsistence Allowance (SA) due to budget shortages. It stated that the SA would be replaced with alternate programs such as micro-loan schemes and providing skill-oriented training in its attempts to foster self-reliance among urban refugees.

 

One underlying fact remains, however. Even if this scheme is implemented, the refugee will have absolutely no use of their skills since they are not permitted to work in India as refugees. No foreigner is allowed to work or receive social aid in India. This raised serious skepticism about the practicality of the plan. Skill-oriented training for urban refugees however, is not a new policy of UNHCR. It has long been sponsoring vocational courses through YMCA. However, this training has done little to improve the self-reliance of refugees and has proved woefully ineffective. Self-reliance seems to remain a total myth. Despite this program’s repeated failure and amid serious scepticism, UNHCR seems to prefer to overlook the impracticality of its plan.

 

Voluntary repatriation, local integration and resettlement to a third country are options available to UNHCR in finding permanent solutions to refugee problems. New Delhi UNHCR’s action policy on Burmese refugees clearly states “Unlike some other groups of urban refugees in New Delhi, the Myanmarese (Burmese) do not have residence permits and sometimes the only action is to seek urgent resettlement to a third country.” Despite this claim, UNHCR has seldom chosen the resettlement option for the Burmese refugees and instead has denied many of them assistance, including those who already have groups willing to sponsor them in a third country.

 

Among countries maintaining annual resettlement quota for refugees are the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Despite the urgent and serious need to address the problems of Burmese Chin refugees in New Delhi, their situation has been overlooked and little has been done so far to ease their suffering. It is important that UNHCR play a more active role in seeking resettlement for the Chin refugees in a third country.

 

 

 

Letter & Press Release:

 

 

 

Chin Students and Youth Organization’s Letter to UNHCR Office, Kuala Lumpur

 

To: Mr. Shinji Kubo

Protection Officer

UNHCR

570 Bukit Petalang

P.O Box. 10185

50706, Kualalampur

Malaysia

 

Fax: 60-3-2411 780

Telephone: 60-3-2411 322

E mail: [email protected] e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

Date: 14/04/2001

 

From: Chin Student and Youth Organization (USA)

 

Subject: Appeal for the Burmese Refugees in Malaysia

 

Dear Sir/Madam,

 

With respect to your office we the Chin Students and Youth express our concern for the Burmese Refugees who are facing legal challenge in Malaysia and urge your action for the protection of Burmese Refugees.

 

The rights of the people of Burma have been violated since 1988 under the oppression of the Burma military dictators which caused the lose of thousands of lives and thousands of Burmese refugees around the world.

 

However, Burmese refugees, in their exiled states, do not receive essential legal protection such as in Malaysia. While those refugees can not go back to Burma for fear of life threatening treatment by the Military dictators, and if they are deported to Burma they will be tortured which will endanger their lives.

 

Meanwhile, we have learned that many Burmese refugees in Malaysia are seemed to face deportation such as Mr. Hee Mang who has been kept in the deportation center. We believe that none of refugees whose lives are in danger torture and inhuman treatment in their home country should not be deported from their exile state.

 

We, therefore, on humanitarian ground, ask your mission to consider the case of Burmese refugees and grant them legal status in their exile state.

 

Sincerely,

 

(Secy)

 

On Behalf of Chin Student and Youth Organization

 

Coppy to:

 

Head of desk for South Asia Bureau for Asia and the Pacific,

UNHCR

94 Rue be Montbrillant CH, 1202

Geneve, Switzerland

Fax: 41-22- 739 73 35

 

Salai Za Uk Ling

C/o

WUSC

Lakehead University

955 Oliver Rd.

Thunder Bay, Ontario

P7B 5E1

Canada

 

Email: [email protected] e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

Phone: 807-622-7088

 

April 12, 2001

To,

Mr. Shinji Kubo

Protection Officer

UNHCR

570 Bukit Petalang

P.O Box. 10185

50706, Kualalampur

Malaysia

Dear Respected Sir,

Re: Earnest Appeal for UNHCR Intervention In Burmese Refugees Facing Deportation in Malaysia

 

It is with grave concern that I am writing this appeal to you. As a concerned individual and being a former UNHCR mandated refugee myself, I have been greatly shaken by the news that some Burmese nationals have been arrested by the Malaysian Police following their peaceful protest inside the Burmese Embassy in Kuala Lumpur on March 27th 2001.

 

I have learnt from a reliable source that one of the protesters, Mr. Hee Man is now in custody awaiting his deportation at the Macap Umboo detention centre. If I am not mistaken, this individual has apparently sought refugee status under the mandate of the Office of UNHCR in Kuala Lumpur before being arrested in connection with his peaceful protest. I have also been informed that preparations are being made by the Malaysian authorities for deportation of Mr. Hee Mang to Burma, the country he fled. My concern is that if deported, it is highly apparent that the safety of Mr. Hee Man will be highly jeopardized.

 

As you are aware, Burma’s human rights record under the present military regime is, if not the worst, one of the worst in the world. This is clearly reflected in the reports of the United Nations Human Rights Special Rapporteur to Burma and a series of subsequent resolutions adopted by the General Assembly as well as the International Labor Organization, which imposed punitive sanctions against Burma for its widespread use of forced labor. Further evidence could be seen in repeated EU’s resolutions as well as the United States State Department’s report on World Religious Freedom, which designated Burma as Country of Particular Concern (CPC).

 

The circumstances which compel these refugees to flee the country is still prevalent in Burma. You may be informed that there have been cases where deportees have been subject to torture, lengthy imprisonment and even executions in Burma. This was the case when some six Burmese refugees claimants were deported by India in 1996. However, the timely intervention of UNHCR in New Delhi could prevent one Mr. Steven, a Burmese Chin refugee from being deported in 1999. This included a personal visit by UNHCR officials to where he was detained for deportation, and by subsequently issuing him a refugee certificate in the first place.

 

Also in the case of Mr. Hee Man and other Burmese nationals in Malaysia, I have great confidence in the effectiveness of your good office’s intervention in preventing this dreadful situations from happening. I am fully aware of UNHCR’s certain instruments and criteria in determining refugee status under the definition contained in the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol, which requires the claimants to present a well-founded ground of fear of persecution in their home country. However, I believe that the fact that the widespread human rights violations still exists in Burma, as indicated above, and the fact that Mr. Hee Man and his friends fearlessly expressed their political opinions by staging a peaceful demonstration inside the Burmese Embassy seem enough to constitute the Convention Refugee definition, which will enable them to become refugees within the mandate of UNHCR.

 

Furthermore, I strongly believe that the dreadful situation that awaits Mr. Hee Mang on his deportation to Burma could be averted if the UNHCR undertake timely intervention by recognizing him as refugees.

 

Sir, the only hope for the safety of Mr. Hee Mang and other Burmese nationals in Malaysia appears to lie solely on your sympathetic and humanitarian concern. As a concerned individual, I earnestly appeal to you for your timely and effective intervention in respect of Mr. Hee Mang and other Burmese refugees in Malaysia for which I would be extremely grateful.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

Salai Za Uk Ling

 

Cc: Head of desk for South Asia Bureau for Asia and the Pacific,

UNHCR

94 Rue be Montbrillant CH, 1202

Geneve, Switzerland

Fax: 41-22- 739 73 35

 

Contact : Salai Za Bik

Tel. +91 11 5534850

Fax +91 11 5510773

April 11, 2001

 

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

 

NO SHELTER FOR CHIN REFUGEES IN MALAYSIA

Voicing for the Protection of Refugees

 

The Joint Action Committee (JAC) is shocked and deeply disappointed by news that Mr. Peter Hee Mang, a Burmese Chin refugee, has been held in deportation center in Malacca, Malaysia, for his peaceful demonstration of showing off a T-shirt depicting Aung San Suu Kyi, Leader of pro-democracy in Burma, at the celebration of Myanma’s Armed Forces Day at Kualalumpur Burmese Embassy. The JAC strongly urges the Government of Malaysia not to send him back, and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in Kualalumpur to give him legal status as Burma military junta is still harmful for him and to open access for other Chin refugees to the UNHCR person of concern status.

 

Reuters news in Kualalumpur on April 3 quoted Shinji Kubo, protection officer of the UNHCR, as saying “Peter Hee Mang had been moved to a detention camp where illegal immigrants ere usually held before deportation’. AFP on April 5 quoted Nasri Mokhtar, head of Malacca detention, as saying there is no request from UN officials to meet me and Peter Hee Mang and the deportation will be done”.

 

The JAC welcomed the Malaysian Rights group, Burma Solidarity Group, Altsean-Burma and other human rights activists’ call for the UNHCR in Kualalumpur to grant political asylum to Peter Hee Mang.

 

As a result of ethnic cleansing launched by the military junta in areas inhabited by the ethnic minority, many ethnic Chins from western Burma have been forced to flee to many counties. So far UNHCR in India, USA, Australia, Thailand, recognized them as refugees.

 

The last event of Chin refugees’ deportation from Mizoram State of India to Burmese military junta last August was a good example. The information we received reveals many deportees being taken by the Burmese army to hard labor camps and many awarded lengthy imprisonment. This shows that as long as the current military regime exists in Burma, the ethnic cleansing policy will exist and there is no guarantee of safety for those who are forcibly returned to the country. “If Mr. Peter H. Mang were deported to Burma, I am sure that he would face lifelong imprisonment” said Mr. Mang Lian, a lawyer and a candidate in 1990 general election who recently fled in to India.

 

Chin National League for Democracy (Exile)

Chin Human Rights Organization

Chin Students Union

Chin National Council

Chin Refugee Committee

Chin Women Organization

 

 

 

CHRO’s Oral Intervention on 57th Session United Nations Commission on Human Rights

 

United Nations Commission On Human Rights (57th Session 19th March-27th April 2001), Geneva., Oral intervention on Agenda Item 15., Delivered by Salai Cung Bik Ling Of Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO)

 

Mr. Chairman,

 

As many of my brothers and sisters from Burma have stated to this Commission, the Burmese Army has not stopped committing atrocities against the non-Burman peoples and the civilian population in general. There is no substantial progress in the respect of human rights and no solution to the deep-seated socio-economic and political conditions facing the indigenous peoples in Burma.

 

Under the long years of suppression and increasing military rule, the Chin indigenous people are experiencing many of the same abuses as other ethnic indigenous groups living inside and along the border regions of Burma. However, a specific human rights abuse suffered by the Chin people is religious persecution, even though the first and second constitutions of Burma accorded freedom of religion. In theory, Burma is a union of multi-ethnic societies founded on the principle of equality and fraternity in which the citizens have the right to practice and enjoy their own religions peacefully in a peaceful way. The practice is very different.

 

For more than one hundred years, the religion of most Chins has been Christianity, but this has now unfortunately become foreign in the eyes of the Burmese military government.

 

Allow me to cite two specific examples to support my statement. The Christian Chin community has long wanted to construct Chin centenary building in the Chin Capital, Haka, but is repeatedly denied authorization to build. In contrast, the Burmese government funded the construction of the International Theravada Buddhist Missionary University in Rangoon, which opened in December 1998. The other related example concerns the arrest and imprisonment of Pastor Grace, who was arrested on February 13, 2001. She is now presently detained in Haka army camp, where prison conditions are extremely severe, inadequate and precarious for a woman prisoner. Her brother is currently serving a two-year prison sentence at the Kalaywa concentration camp.

 

Mr. Chairman,

 

In the process of through human development, free and peaceful communication is essential, among many other things. It is also important for my people to look forward to an open and better society. But regretfully , because of the clear and sustained policy of isolating the indigenous peoples from the international community pursued by the successive Burmese regimes, we have not been able to initiate our own development. A few years ago, the military regime launched a tourism drive. However, in spite of tourist promotion, visits to the Chin State still remain forbidden since the 1960s.

 

Mr. Chairman,

 

Given the political experiences of our country for the last five decades, we are gravely concerned about the continuing policy and intentions of the Burmese army towards the future of the indigenous peoples of Burma. Ignorance and continued denial of fundamental human rights to the indigenous peoples in Burma will only amount to weaken the stability of the Union , and hinder the peace building process, which is most needed and will lead to the eventual lasting peace for the nation.

 

In this respect, we hope that the non-Burman groups will soon be able to take part in the peace process that seems to have started in Rangoon. This will make it more likely that the issues and problems that face all the peoples of Burma will be sincerely addressed, and we count on the support of the international community in this critical process.

 

Thank you

 

 

 

NEWS RELEASE

 

 

 

CONGRESSMAN UNDERWOOD SECURES HHS REFUGEE AID FOR MYANMAR NATIONALS IN GUAM

 

 

From Guam Congressional Delegate

ROBERT A. UNDERWOOD

2428 Rayburn HOB, Washington, D.C. 20515

Tel: 202-225-1188

Fax: 202-226-0341

120 Fr. Duenas Ave., Ste 107 Hagatna, Guam 96910

Tel: 671-477-4272

Fax: 671-477-2587

Contact: In D.C.: Esther Kiaaina at 225-1188

In Guam: Cathy Gault at 477-4272

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

 

 

April 25, 2001 — Congressman Robert A. Underwood today announced that officials from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement will soon arrive in Guam to assist the Chin Christians who fled Myanmar earlier this year. The team may also be providing assistance to those Chinese immigrants seeking political asylum.

 

“Since March, we have been in discussion with HHS, primarily the people in the Office of Refugee Resettlement,” Congressman Underwood said. “We asked that they send out a team to Guam to provide assistance and they’ve complied with that request.”

 

The team, which will include representatives from the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, GA, will arrive in a few days to begin refugee processing, to assist those immigrants who wish to travel on into the United States. The team will also conduct health screening and assist the local church and charity groups who are currently caring for the Myanmar Nationals who began entering Guam earlier this year under the Guam-only Visitor Visa Program. Myanmar has since been removed from the program.

 

Congressman Underwood said the Secretary of Health and Human Services has the authority under the Immigration and Naturalization Act, to order such assistance. In response to Congressman Underwood’s formal letter of request for assistance, Secretary Tommy G. Thompson invoked his authority on April 18, notifying all federal agencies that HHS would be making arrangements for the temporary care of the refugees in Guam.

 

“This invocation of authority will allow the Department of Health and Human Services to provide, among other things, limited medical screening for communicable diseases for approximately 1,150 Burmese and Chinese asylum applicants on Guam awaiting adjudication of their asylum claims, to award emergency grants to provide food and shelter for those individuals, and to arrange transport to mainland U.S. destinations for those applicants who are granted asylum,” Secretary Thompson wrote.

 

 

 

Facts & Arguments

 

THE UNKEPT PROMISES

Kanbawza Win

 

” Hope for the Best but Prepare for the Worst” is the unforgotten speech given by our beloved leader Bogyoke Aung San when he came to London to negotiate for independence of the Union of Burma. The speech implies that if we cannot achieve it by peaceful negotiations we will have to fight for it. Today this would also apply to all the ethnic forces in Burma who are at odds with the Burmese military Junta. Currently the secret negotiations between the pro democracy movement led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the military Junta has left out the ethnic forces. If the Myanmar race, both democratic and undemocratic forces construe the Non-Myanmar as an excess baggage that must be accepted as a necessary evil then the Burmese problem of will never be solved. Their actions seem to indicate a Burmese saying “Ka Lae Dwe Tait Tait Ne, Lu Gyi Dwe Sa Gar Pyaw Nae Dae” meaning, ‘Hey you little fellows keep quiet while we adult are seriously talking’. The nature of the so called ‘Secret Negotiations’ is a clear indication that there is something to hide from the public. If that is the case, then the ethnic groups will have to conclude that as the 1947 Constitution was torn up by the Burmese Junta in 1962 and obliterated up the Panglong Agreement then the ethnic groups have no obligation whatsoever to the Union. Hence fighting the Myanmar Tatmadaw (army) is amounted to legitimate war against an occupying force (for the past decade they have behave in such a manner) and cannot be construed as a civil war.

 

The very fact that the negotiations are bilateral and not tri-larteral underline the fact that the Myanmar tribe, which is a much stronger, more numerous and resourceful and dominating tribe, wants to rough ride shod over the ethnic groups. The writing on the wall exhibit clearly that major decisions will be made between a Myanmar and a Myanmar, and later these discussion will be expended to the ethnic forces for them to decide either to take it or leave it. This “carrot and stick tactic” denotes that a Myanmar does not treat a non-Myanmar as an equal but of a lower level people who are at their beck and call. Of course the democratic Myanmar will be magnanimous and on paper at least, will treat the ethnic races as equal. In other words, the ethnic groups will be at the whims and the fancy of the Myanmar leaders.

 

This has been the case since the inception of the Union of Burma when the Karens has no choice but were forced to fight. Then the Mon, Kachin, Shan, Karenni, Arakanese and Chin followed, not to mention the much smaller tribes as the Pa O, Palaung, Tavoynians Rohingys, etc . Today there is no single tribe or ethnic group that has not taken up arm or is still fighting against the Myanmar tribe. Burmese chauvinism and xenophobia run deep into their veins. Until and unless there is cetena, (goodwill) love and sincerity by the Myanmar towards the non Myanmar as showed by our beloved leader Bogyoke Aung San, we cannot visualize a final solution. The Panglong Agreement and the 1947 constitution drawn up under the supervision of Bogyoke Aung San has been trampled upon by the Burmese Tatmadaw belonging to the Myanmar tribe.

 

A barometer reading of the Junta’s current attitude towards the ethnic forces can be clearly seen in the military offensive against the Karens and the Shans. Their superb diplomacy of “divide and rule ” which translates into “let the ethnic forces fight the ethnic forces” e.g. Wa fighting the Shan, Karen Buddhist fighting the Karen Christians and so on, harkened back even to the Burmese democratic days when the Kachin and the Chins were recruited to fight the Karen. In fact it was the Chin forces that defended Rangoon from the Karen who were in the suburbs of Rangoon now called Insein. How many of the Chins and Kachins have laid down their lives in defense of the Union of Burma only to be changed to the chauvinism name of Myanmar. Currently how are the Chin and Kachin being treated? Do the Myanmar respect their culture and religious beliefs? How many times have the Myanmar negotiated with these ethnic groups and how many times have they betrayed or swindled them?

 

Of course there are several Myanmar who have not approved the proceedings of those in power. They have identified with the ethnic forces and fought shoulder to shoulder with their ethnic brethren, especially the students and the young generation who were forced to flee for their lives in 1988.. The ethnic groups welcomed them with open arms seeing theses young Myanmar like them being persecuted. This also proved that the ethnic groups are not at all racist but simply fighting the Junta and chauvinism. These Myanmar understand more about their ethnic brethren than those who are in Rangoon who are at the helm of the administration. Why are these Myanmar left out of the negotiations?

 

The treatment by the Myanmar of the non-Myanmar for half a century or so since the inception of modern Burma has guaranteed that no ethnic leader will trust the Myanmar. This is now being reinforced by the current “Secret Negotiations” which deliberately leave out the ethnic groups. Autonomous regions, self determination, and federalism are the words anathema to the Myanmar under the pretext of dismemberment the Union. But the fact is that these attitude covers up the truth, liberty, equality and fraternity.

 

The ethnic groups together with the people of Burma and the world have been left in the dark. Why? Is the fate of the 47 million Burmese people to be decided only by two persons alone, Khin Nyunt and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi? We have heard about the nature of these negotiation via foreign media only. No announcement or communique has been released. Naturally speculations are rife. Will the blood thirsty Narco- Generals be given impunity in return for an interim civilian government?

 

Not that we don’t have faith in Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. Nor do we want revenge over the evil generals but the very fact that important conditions are agreed upon behind our backs indicate that the situation is equivalent to the Burmese saying, “Say Yar Thwa; Khaing Da Loke; Pyan Ma Pyaw Ne” meaning ‘go where you are directed and implement as told and don’t talk back’. Why is the culture of silence imposed on us? Is it a Myanmar way or a Myanmar mentality? We are very much bewildered. If we don’t know the causes, nature and extent of the gross violations of human rights which the Generals are still committing how can the truth be known, not to mention achieving of national reconciliation. We should also remember that the granting of de facto acceptance of impunity for those holding political, military or economic power erodes the very basis of the social order and helps to nurture a culture of violence.

 

Drawing from the experience of South Africa, it has been found that there is an existential need of the victim to break out of a situation of silence, isolation, fear and falsehood. To know the truth, to recover a shared memory and thus to restore human dignity for the victims and accountability for the perpetrators are MUSTS. We would very much like to find out or how whether this compatible with so called ‘Secret Negotiations’?

 

Without an intentional attempt to create a space where the stories of humiliation and suffering can be told, where the truth can emerge and collective remembrance restored, the search for justice will continue to divide the community rather than re-establish relationships and contribute to a process of healing. How can forced labour, forced relocation, systematic torture, disappearances, extra-judicial killing, raping of women and children continue even as the ‘Secret Negotiations’ are going on. Why have the Myanmar so stubbornly refused to learn the lessons of the recent past and all this continue to occur? More often than not, we hear the response, “Forget the past, the dead cannot come to life and turn your eyes to the future building of a nation.” This simplistic answer, so easily offered by those who have something to hide, has no healing power. It leaves no room for reconciliation. Until and unless the truth is told, unless the criminals are held accountable, or unless those directly responsible and their accomplice confess their guilt, ask for forgiveness and give concrete signs of repentance, there can be no justice and therefore no healing of society. No body in Burma would want to repeat the errors of the past, trapped in cycles of retributive violence. The people yearn for transformation. And this transformation could start with the opening up of the so called ‘Secret Negotiations’. The people of Burma including the ethnic groups have suffered too much from the unkept promises could be spared from experiencing evil wars and bitterness.

 

 

 

 

Rhododendron News

VOL.IV No.II MARCH-APRIL 2001

HUMAN RIGHTS

 

Burmese Soldiers Arrested A Female Pastor in Chin State

February 28, 2001 ,Ottawa

 

Chin Human Rights Organization received a report that pastor Grace from Rinpi Baptist Church, Haka township was arrested by the Burmese soldiers from Haka, the capital of Chin State on February 13, 2001. She ( the pastor ) is now detain in Haka army camp.

 

Pastor Gracy was accused of supporting the Chin National Front CNF by giving accommodation. Last year, Pu Hoi Mang the eldest brother of pastor Grace was arrested by the Burmese soldiers and sentenced him to a two years jail term with hard labour. Pu Hoi Mang was accused of supporting the Chin National Front. Pu Hoi Mang is now serving his jail term at the Kalaywa concentration camp.

 

Under increasing military rule, the Chins are currently suffering many of the same abuses as other ethnic groups living along the border region of Burma. However, a specific characteristic of the human rights abuses suffered in Chin State is religious persecution.

 

Ethnic Leader Arrested In Burma

 

New Delhi, March 26, 2001

 

A prominent ethnic leader closed to Burma’s pro-democracy leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was arrested recently in Burma, despite the talks between Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the junta had been going on since October last year for the possible return of “political stability” in this military-run country. Reports reaching here said that Mr. Gin Kam Lian, Secretary General of the Zomi National Congress (ZNC) was arrested on 19th March at Mawlamyine, Mon State in southern Burma by the junta’s security forces.

 

Dr. Kenneth who worked as financial secretary of the ZNC disclosed this in an interview with Mizzima News Group today. “He was very closed to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. We don’t know why he was arrested and his whereabouts now”, said Dr. Kenneth.

 

“It is absolutely unjust to arrest Mr. Gin Kam Lian. He is a known ethnic leader working closely with Amaji (Daw Aung San Suu Kyi)”, commented Dr. Kenneth.

 

Mr. Gin Kam Lian had been actively working in the Committee for Representing People’s Parliament (CRPP), which was formed in September 1998 with the representatives of political parties that had won in the 1990 elections in Burma.

 

The Zomi National Congress (ZNC) won two parliamentary seats in the elections but the junta cancelled the party registration in 1992.

 

Burmese junta has not made any announcement on the arrest of Mr. Gin Kam Lian. The junta has also arrested the president of ZNC Mr. Cin Sian Thang in 1999.

 

[Source: Mizzima News Group (http://www.mizzima.com) ]

 

Being An Elected MP In Burma

 

March 4, 2001

 

He was one of the rich persons in the town a decade ago. But things have changed dramatically since the multi-party elections were allowed to be held by the ruling military junta in 1990. Now, he is struggling hard to survive with his tiny tea shop, facing daily harassment of the military authorities. The guilt is nothing but being an elected Member of Parliament from the National League for Democracy (NLD) party.

 

The NLD party led by the Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi won in a landslide victory, securing more than 80% of the parliamentary seats in the May 1990 election. He was one of the winning MPs, elected with overwhelming votes against the military-backed National Unity Party (NUP).

 

His name is U Maung Kyun Aung, above 60, an NLD MP from the Rathae Taung Township Constituency No. 1 in Rakhaing State.

 

There were two members of parliament in the township, one U Thar Noe was elected from Rathae Taung (2) from the Arakan League for Democracy (ALD) and the other was U Maung Kyun Aung from Rathae Taung (1) from the National League for Democracy (NLD). U Thar Noe fled the country in 1995 and now takes shelter in India as an exiled MP.

 

The ruling junta, known as State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), refuses to honour the verdict of the people and never allows to convene the people’s parliament even though it is already more than ten years after the elections were held.

 

U Maung Kyun Aung has faced and continues to face the regular harassment, intimidation and threat by the military intelligence (MI) personnel in the town. He was initially offered bribe by the junta’s agents but later detained when he turned down their offer.

 

After the release, since 1998, the MI Unit 18 has been forcing him with various methods to resign both from the MPship and from the NLD party.

 

But, he consistently refuses to bow to these pressure. The consequences are that the military intelligence personnel have been disturbing whatever business he does, the government-sponsored Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA) members threatening the local people not to do any business with U Maung Kyun Aung. They had, indeed, troubled the local people who did business with the NLD-MP.

 

As a result, once-a-rich U Maung Kyun Aung lost his wealth and has reached to a point where he has to open a small teashop in his hometown for survival. But, that still doesn’t make him free from the troubles. Recently, his son was sentenced to six-month prison for “destabilising the security of township.” One or two members of the local intelligence unit and the USDA everyday come and sit at his tea shop not because they like his tea very much but to put the words around that the customers would be troubled if they continue to come to the teashop. The customers are threatened they would be even charged. And now, many dare not to come. But, U Maung Kyun Aung continues to stand on as a NLD-MP in this town of South-western Burma.

 

[ Source: Mizzima News Group ]

 

Night Watch Duty By Civilian Persists In Town In Chin State

 

Since mid 1997, civilians in northern Chin State’s Thantlang town have been regularly forced by the Burmese Army to do night watch duty. The duty does not spare even lone widows, according to information received from Thantlang.

 

The civilian sentry duty was enforced in 1997 by the Army in the wake of the National Student Sport Festival in Hakha to ensure security in the urban areas. Thantlang town is divided into seven blocks in which one sentry post is built in each block where four civilians from each block have to do the sentry duty every night. This duty goes on a rotating basis and lone widows who can not perform the duty by themselves have to hire one able person for Kyats 80 per night. A mandatory fine of money is imposed on those who fail to do the duty, said ( name omitted for security reason ) who is a student in Thantlang. The duty starts as soon as it is dark and lasts until dawn. The soldiers are conducting a regular and surprise check during the night to ensure people are doing their duty carefully. If they found out that someone is dozing off while on duty, the soldiers severely beat and punish that person.

 

Households who can afford to pay Kyats 10,000 to the Block Peace and Development Council are exempted from the duty for one year. Block PDC members themselves are required to do separate duty every night at each Block PDC Office. Though the citizens of Thantlang are greatly disappointed over the forcible duty imposed on them, they are left with no choice but to continue to perform the duty as they are afraid of the army authorities.

 

How Polio Vaccines Are Given In Chin State

 

Nurses who give Polio vaccination to children across Chin State are surprised at the abrupt termination since January 2001 of a customary practice of paying Kyats 50 to every child receiving the vaccination. Under the auspices of UNICEF, polio vaccine has been given to children in Chin State once every year accompanied by cash award of Kyats 50 to the vaccinated child. Nurses have told the parents that they are wondering how the payments have been stopped-whether the money have been embezzled by persons in charge of the program or whether the UNICEF itself has terminated it, said one person coming from inside Chin State.

 

In the past years, doctors used to allocate the polio vaccine along with the cash money to be given to the vaccinated children, to nurses who are giving the vaccination. However, to every ones surprise, the practice of paying cash award was stopped this year. The program is being undertaken under the supervision of Deputy Health Assistant Director of Chin State and at township levels, Township Medical Officers are responsible to manage the program. The TMO is responsible for holding a meeting with nurses in the second week of December every year where he allocates the vaccine to the nurses for distribution. It is learned that the nurses did not dare to question the issue of cash award during the meeting with the TMO last December. More than 15 nurses are operating under the program in the township of Thantlang alone. On 14 January 2001, one nurses told the villagers of ( village name omitted ) about the termination of cash award while giving over 30 children! the vaccination along with one other nurse, said one person coming from Chin State.

 

Army Authorities In Chin State Imposed Levy On Farmers

 

Name Laipa ( Name change )

 

Age: 40

 

Sex: Male

 

Ethnicity: Chin

 

Occupation: LPDC chairman and farmer

 

Marital Status: Married with 4 children

 

Address: ++++village, Falam Township, Chin State

 

Date of Interview: 14/01/2001

 

Some months ago, Township Peace and Development Council chairman in Falam summoned a meeting where he invited all Village PDC chairmen in the township and informed us that the government would no longer allow shifting cultivation in the area with immediate effect. He told us that anyone continuing the shifting cultivation would be arrested and imprisoned and that the shifting cultivation would be replaced by wet cultivation. We all pleaded to him that since most people do not have fields to do the wet cultivation without the current shifting form of cultivation, we would have nothing to eat and would all die. He said that he would allow us to continue the shifting cultivation under one condition-that everyone doing it would pay Kyats 60 to the authorities.

 

Therefore, for the year 1999-2000 every household pays kyat 60 each to the authorities in return for their permission. There are 10 villages in the Zahau village tract all of which have to pay the same amount to the authorities. They are Haimual, Thipcang, Hnathial (a), Hnathial (b), Zawngte, Ngailan, Seilawn, Sih Ngai, Tlang Kawi, Leilet village.

 

There are 40 households in our village and we paid Kayts 2,400 altogether regardless of the household is a widow. For the year 2000-2001, we were told that we have to pay another Kyats 60 per household. We have already cleared the site for cultivation, but if we do not pay the money then we would not be allowed to proceed. We are also fearful of arrest and imprisonment.

 

REFUGEES

 

Burmese Refugees In India To Go Hungry

 

Fear of possible starvation looms among Burmese refugees in India after the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Office in New Delhi announced in mid January that it will stop assisting them with monthly subsistence allowance of Rs.1400 per person, about US$30.

 

The announcement, which the refugees responded with great disappointment, came with the cited reason of ” the low availability of UNHCR budget allocation for its mission office in New Delhi for the year 2001 resulting from scaling down of financial contributions by potential donor countries”.

 

Although the refugees are informed that the termination of Subsistence Allowance payment will come into effect in April 2001, there are some refugees such as Salai Aung Cin Thang who had already been terminated his allowance. The UNHCR will, however, continue to assist those extremely vulnerable individuals such as single women and children.

 

More than 800 Burmese nationals are registered refugees under the mandate of UNHCR in New Delhi. The number constitutes only a few in an estimated 40,000-50,000 Burmese refugees in India who could manage to come to the capital city to claim UNHCR’s person of concern status. Most refugees are ethnic Chin from western Burma who fled serious human rights abuses including forced labor, rape, summary killing and religious persecution by the military regime in their home country. They are mostly Christians and have been subject to religious and racial persecution by the military junta, which came to power in a bloody coup in 1988.

 

Concentrated mainly in the western suburban area of New Delhi, the refugees live in cheap-rented accommodations from the local landlords. They have no other means of supporting themselves and are largely dependent on humanitarian assistance provided by UNHCR to cover their basic needs such as food and shelter. The Government of India does not recognize them as refugees, though it has issued residential permit to those already recognized by UNHCR, which is to be extended every 6 months.

 

Locked between persecution at home and poverty in their country of asylum, the refugees have been over the years, faced with extreme social problems including health, education and above all, integrating into the local community. In July 2000, many refugee families were evicted from their houses by their landlords when the UNHCR delayed payment of monthly subsistence allowance to them for about 2 months. Already impoverished, it is predictable that once the UNHCR stops paying them allowance in April, they will face an even more serious problem such as homelessness and starvation.

 

According to UNHCR, it has three available options in finding solution to refugee problems, voluntary repatriation, local integration and resettlement to a third country. The refugees are now asking that they be resettled to a third country such as the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, as it is the only solution left to address their plights. However, UNHCR is insisting that resettlement is the least preferred solution and is contingent entirely on those countries to accept the refugees.

 

 

 

Burmese Refugees Write To Kofi Annan For Help

 

New Delhi, March 17, 2001

 

Burmese refugees have appealed to United Nations Secretary General Mr. Kofi Annan to intervene in the difficulties they are facing in India. The All Burmese Refugees Committee (ABRC), in a letter today, states that the Burmese refugees living in Delhi have been facing problems and difficulties in their stay in India and the local police has failed to provide necessary protection for their security and lives.

 

The letter has narrated details of recent events where some local people beat the refugees in Delhi for wrongly accused acts and the police failed to give protection to the Burmese refugees.

 

According to the refugee committee, on 13th March, a group of local people in Mehrauli, south Delhi, beat some Burmese refugees living in the area, accusing the refugees of “kidnapping” an Indian child.

 

The local police, instead of giving protection, beat the refugees again both on the spot and in the police station. At least two Burmese refugees were badly beaten, said the refugees committee. Later, the police filed a FIR against Mr. David Ral Bik, 18, for allegedly kidnapping the Indian child. The police sent him to Tihar Jail in Delhi the next day.

 

The Burmese refugees committee denied the accusation. “The (Indian) child was just playing with one of our children that morning. There was no such kidnapping”, said Mr. Mang Lian, General Secretary of the refugees committee.

 

The refugees committee has allegedly that the local police force has failed to give necessary protection to the Burmese refugees in Delhi whenever such situation arises.

 

At present, there are nearly one thousand refugees from Burma living in Delhi. Most of them are Chin nationals from Burma. The All Burmese Refugees Committee (India), one of the refugees’ groupings, has appealed to the UN Secretary General to intervene in the matters relating to the Burmese refugees in India to ease their hardship and problems.

 

[ Source: Mizzima News Group ]

 

 

 

FACTS & ARGUMENTS

 

Secret Negotiations – The Myanmar Mentality

 

Kanbawza Win

 

If it is “Government for the people of the people by the people,” then why on earth be secretive seems to be the logical hypothesis of the secret negotiations going on between the Burmese military Junta and the Daw Aung San Suu Kyi followers of the pro democracy forces. Is there something to hide? Or is it Myanmar is negotiating with a Myanmar and leaving out the ethnic groups? These are just some of the soul searching questions with which the people of Burma have been racking their brains with little or no answer. The people listen to the news reports, rumors, speculation and jokes. It is already nearly half a year that the so-called secret negotiations had been going on between the two sides and up to day nothing substantive has emerged. Are we expected to have blind faith in the negotiations?

 

Even though we visualize that the talks between the two antagonists are serious and significant, no one knows the substance of the talks except Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the Generals. There have been no official announcements and even the Burmese media controlled by the Generals has not reflected their views and are tight lipped. Why?

 

The major concern is that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese democracy nymph, is the only person involved from the pro democracy group while her Executive Committee including U Tin Oo, U Aung Shwe, U Nyunt Wai and so on, are barred from participation. Why? Is it because the Generals construe that their bullying tactics will pay off? We are afraid that there are more questions than answers regarding these so-called secret negotiations. On the other hand if Gen. Khin Nyunt reports to China and General Maung Aye to India about the progress of the reports why are we left in dark for after all this is an internal Burmese affair, as according to the logic of the Junta.

 

The only thing with regard to this is that there is no substantive political agreement has been reached up to this time. Nothing has been announced. Then what is all this secret negotiating all about? No laws have been repealed and this explicitly means that a handful of those who were already released can be re-arrested and tortured again. This does not includes the fate of thousands of political prisoners like Min Ko Naing, Daw San San Nwe and the likes who are rotting in Burmese jails. Neither do we see any law enacted to ensure basic human rights and democratic principles. If it is genuinely a step by step approach negotiations must at least show some progress as time goes on.

 

In the meantime, forced labour has been going on unabated. According to an ILO document there are over 800,000 Burmese subjected to forced labour at any given time. Many children are forced to work in infrastructure projects under the banner of voluntary labour while others have to eke out their living in sweatshops. There has been forced relocation of people from their native homes. These people were forced out to make way for government projects and sent to unhealthy places with no running water or sanitary system. Ethnic cleansing has been going on with might and main in the ethnic inhabited area while religious persecution and religious riots are very much encouraged and initiated. Moreover there is not the slightest attempt on the part of the military government to curb the gross human rights violations committed by the Burmese soldiers against the civilians.

 

What more proof is wanted than the Junta was not at all serious about these negotiation when it launched a major offensive against the dissidents, both to the pro-democracy forces of the border area and the ethnic freedom fighters. Their goal is complete annihilation and in their zeal to implement it the Junta forces have crossed the border into Thailand in hot pursuit resulting in the clashes with the Thai armed forces. Like in any military operations fleeing refugees and forced portering were common. The porter to walk in front of the soldiers so that they will be the first to be blown up in case of land mines. Lack of mechanized division and manpower has compelled the Burmese army to recruit women porters who become slave labour during the day and sex slaves at night. The more military operations there are the more forced labour, portering, rape, pillaging of villages and other gross human rights violations will occur.

 

The Junta has to be judged by its actions and not by its words and these actions clearly spell out that it is just stalling for time with these secret negotiations in order to strengthen their grip on the country and preventing any international action against them.

 

The only solace from this “Hush Hush Negotiation” is that the Junta, after a dozen years has realized that the pro democracy forces led by Daw Suu and the NLD could not be annihilated as they have previously boasted and vowed to do. Now they are being forced to find alternatives if they are indeed serious about solving the problems, which they are now facing. The moral authority of Daw Suu over the entire Burmese people coupled with international backing is too much to handle for the Junta. Hence, they have embarked on this dialogue which everybody hopes will eventually lead to national reconciliation and solve the Burmese problem. With this end in view, the regime has taken a few minor steps to relax the political atmosphere and possibly explore the potential for further international development assistance. But hopes spring eternal in human breast. Still, it is important for the people to be pragmatic and must be able to see the situation correctly, to wei! gh the pros and the cons.

 

Unlike the leading Asian nations of China, India and Japan that want the status quo or the Association of Southeast Nation’s Constructive Engagement Policy which clearly encourage the Burmese Military Junta, the West and the United Nations and its related agencies the ILO have spoken a language which the Junta clearly understands and it has borne fruit in terms of these secret negotiations. Now we would like to advice the international community to continue to speak in the same language to compel the Junta to bow to the people’s will. We would like to see both the European Union and the US take the necessary steps as well, to broaden the substance of the talk by including the ethnic representatives. At the same time they must be ready to administer more punitive actions and further sanctions if the Junta endeavours to trick the people of Burma and the international community. We must bear in mind that the Generals, like their mentor U Ne Win are very wicket ! crafty, evil and tyrannical.

 

On the other hand the Junta is not completely monolithic. There are several well-known hard-liners that are opposed to the talks and still harbour the idea that they alone are patriotic and that they should be the monarchs of all they survey. The latest episode of the helicopter crash in the Salween river of the Junta’s No.4 man, General Tin Oo and the cabinet ministers, including the supreme commander of the Southeastern division, Thura Sit Maung demonstrates the power struggle going on among them. In military Burma, almost every major accident has been orchestrated to make and appear that the liquidation of that particular person were an unfortunate incident. Those power maniacs will stop at nothing. Nor will they hesitate at killing their own lieutenant in such a way as to appear as if it is an accident when ever their position is threaten.

 

We would like to echo the session of International Confederation of Free Trade Union’s (ICFTU) which has over 120 million workers for solidarity, and ensure that the ILO continues to take action against the Burmese Junta. The ILO should follow up with the Ministry of Labour of every member country inquiring of what responses has been given to the ILO resolution and what measures they have taken to implement it. This is because we understand that thorough research by the ILO throughout these years has come up with the conclusion that it is virtually impossible for any foreign firm, company, government or other institution, to conduct any trade or other economic activity with Burma without providing direct financial support to the military Junta. Both the ILO and the ICFTU have confirmed that any commercial or economic links with Burma perpetuate or extend the system of forced or compulsory labour.

 

All this indicates that the Junta is not sincere in its negotiations with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. The very nature of “Secret Negotiations” means they have something to hide from the public. How can a Myanmar power negotiating with another Myanmar can speak about the Non Myanmar (ethnic groups) when xenophobia and chauvinism runs deep into the Myanmar veins? This is the type of stereotyping perhaps as their cult, history and traditions reinforced such attitudes but to suggest the ideas are inherent I think is a mistake. Experience for nearly half a century even prior to the Burmese military take over has made the non-Myanmar groups wary of these under-table negotiations. Maybe it is high time for the ethnic groups and the international community to acknowledge that the only way to prevent genocide, ethnic cleansing, gross human rights violations and narco producing is to let the ethnic groups go their own way, if the spirit of the Union is absent in the Myanmar! group. This will be going against the very grain of the “Panglong Spirit” and the vision of the architects and the founding members of modern Burma. But this disintegration of the Union, like former Yugoslavia, is far better to be than one group over-lording it over and bullying the other group in perpetuity. At least the Burmese generals contributed to this situation and the day will sadly come eventually when there is no other choice.

 

Burma’s basic problem is rooted in ethnic conflict among the people who don’t want to share the same national identity; and if in this secret negotiations ethnic representatives are not included nothing will improve because Myanmar and Buddhist chauvinism is dominant. Conventional human rights have at times worsened discrimination in Burma by inadvertently validating stereotypes of the aggressive intruders and the meek, innocent victims. A chance must be given to the people to confront their own prejudices about the races inhabiting Burma and the history of their interaction. The people of Burma must confront their feelings about their neighbours with a view of reconciling the wrongs of the past and coexisting peacefully in the future. Ethnic nationalism must be distinctly distinguished from beneficial patriotism. Racial, religious, and linguistic discrimination must be replaced at all level by a willingness to understand and accommodate each other.

 

What authentic proof is there that this “Secret Negotiations” when all can witness so far is a ploy to stall for time to prevent the ILO resolutions from being implemented. We fear that this may be just a fanciful juggling act to entertain the Burmese people and the rest of the world.

(The author is a visiting Professor at the Faculty of International Development Studies, University of Winnipeg Cum Research Fellow at the University of Manitoba at the Institute of Humanities, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada)

 

 

 

Burma Army And Forced Recruiting Of Child Soldiers Salai Kipp Kho Lian Burma gained independence from the British in 1948. In 1962 the Army took over the state power and abolished the then existing parliament democracy system. In 1988 there was a nation-wide democracy uprising against the military dictatorship led by the university students. The uprising was brutally crushed by the military (about 10,000 peaceful demonstrators were massacred nation-wide) and many students joined the ethnic rebels that have been fighting against the central government since Burma’s independence. The students set up an armed movement called All Burma Students Democracy Front at Manerplaw, the Headquarters of the Karen National Union. Even though many ethnic rebels have striked cease -fire agreements with the military regime the KNU, ABSDF and some other ethnic rebels continue their armed struggle.

 

Since the said 1988 uprisings was crushed the military junta planned to expand the army from the 200,000 up to 400,000. But the post-1988 generations of young people are so disillusioned with the military regime that they instead have sympathy with the students and ethnic armed groups.

 

Moreover, the masses are dissatisfied with the military’s failure to hand over the state power to the 1990 election-winning party, the National League for Democracy, led by Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel Peace Prize winner. (The said election was initiated by the military regime itself, which promised to honour the results of the elections. But it refused to hand the political power to the above-mentioned party which had won more than 80 % of the votes.

 

As the army could not get enough volunteers willing to join the army they started to demand quota from each town and village tracts to recruit young people to join the army. Since no one wants to join the army the township and village tracts authorities have to bribe young people by offering K 20,000 to K 30,000 if they would join the army. Because of dire poverty people have no other choices, so some accept the army’s officer just to run away after the military training. As such the army also started to kidnap young people and children – many of them are still ten years old – and force them to join the army. Soldiers who could trick more children into joining the army are rewarded with money or other privileges. ( The soldiers who could trick or kidnap children to join the army are given Kyats 1000 for each child while the monthly salary of an infantry soldier was merely Ks 750,- (that was before 1999). [The military regime has now raised the junior soldier! s’ salary to K 5500.- since 1998/99]

 

Below are some of the privileges of the trainees and soldiers:-

 

– Criminals or juvenile delinquents who have committed any crime (except murder and rape) will be freed from any punishment once a contract – to stay in the army for at least ten years – has been signed. Murderers who joined the army are freed from punishment after the four-month military training. (Usually new recruits are forced to sign the contract the moment they enter the training camps);

 

– Deserters who want to avoid punishment can re-join the Army as new recruits under a new name. They only need to provide their previous serial numbers so that the officers could delete them from the list.

 

Children of ten years old, or who are still too young to go through the military training are stationed to work at the kitchen at the army barracks to make sure they are well-fed and become strong enough and ready for military training. Children who complain about their being kidnapped or who strongly expose their unwillingness to remain in the army are locked up in a kind of jail they call “special rooms” day and night except during the training courses. Some children who speak out aggressively against their conditions are locked up with iron chains at their feet.

 

If anyone runs away during the training the parents are arrested and locked up in the Army until their children return to the training camps.

 

The Army also drafts juvenile delinquents from juvenile prisons in Rangoon. The child soldiers are not well-fed during the training and a lot of restrictions are imposed on them. Moreover, most of the time they are forced to do hard labour jobs inside the army compounds. The military trainings are mere parade and a few days of lectures on arms and ammunition. As a result the child soldiers are ill-trained in military skills and faced a lot of difficulties in the front-line. Once these children in the front-line they are free from all restrictions imposed on them during the training and feel free to break any law. Especially those from the juvenile prisons are notorious for their indiscipline and cruel behaviours towards civilians at the front line as they are now well- equipped with arms and have the army’s protection from punishment by the police.

 

Once they are in the front-line these young soldiers are not given their full monthly wages. As they do not have enough money they start looting the fouls and properties of villagers. The army officers are offered portions of anything looted and the more they could offer their officers the more privileges they get. However, in due course these young soldiers become unhappy with their own situation and are always looking for chances to run away.

 

During the training (after the salary raise in 1998/99) the trainees are officially paid K 3000.- monthly salary. But they could draw only K 1000.- The rest of their salaries are deducted by officers for expenses like uniform, or for the wooden boxes they got from the army, life insurance, fund savings for celebration to be held when the training is over (which never take place), etc., etc. Moreover, every now and then the soldiers are ordered to torture or kill villagers whom the officers may accuse them of rebel sympathizers, most often without any hard evidence. So the young soldiers are very unhappy with the army. They have more sympathy for the rebels and civilians, especially since the 1988 mass-uprisings.

 

[This report is compiled for the Rhododendron News by Salai Kipp Kho Lian of the CHIN FORUM INFORMATION SERVICE based on personal account of a Burmese ex-child soldier, who wish to remain anonymous.]

 

 

 

The Most Common Causes Of The Chin People’s Exodus

 

Hre Mang, Hartwick College, New York

 

Background

 

As the implementation of the Independence Agreement was impeded, the Chin people’s inherited land was divided into three parts. Apart from the Chin State, the other parts were annexed to Sagaing division and Magwe division. The Chin people are approximately 2.5 million in number. There are many sub-groups among the Chins – Zo, Lai, Kuki, Lushai, Matu, Khumi, Asho, etc. There are nine district centres – Tidim, Tawnzang, Falam, Haka, Thlantlang, Matupi, Kanpalet, Paletwah and Mindat. The people who called themselves “Zomi” occupied Falam, Haka and Thantlang Districts; the Matu people occupied Matupi District, Asho and Khumi people occupied Mindat, Kanpalet and Pletwa Districts; and in Magwe and Sagaing divisions different sub-tribes of Chin people occupied the land. There are many different dialects that the Chin people speak. There is no common official Chin language, but Falam (Laizo) is used for broadcasting radio programmes. 80% of the total population are! Christians, the rest are animist, Buddhists, Muslims and Hindus. The Chin State is mostly hilly area. Only in Magwe and Sagaing division are there plains which can be used for cultivation.

 

There are no national highways connecting the important places in Chin State. It is connected to the central part of Burma by small roads. Therefore, there is no common place for the Chin people to meet. Moreover, there has been no daily or periodical newspaper circulating within the State. There is also no radio station within the State. There is only the Chin program, which is broadcast from Rangoon, the capital city of Burma. This program is 30 minutes everyday – and is the official mouthpiece – 15 minutes are for the news, and the other 15 minutes for songs. Burmese is the official language, and there is no Chin common language that all the Chin people can understand. The literacy rate is very low. While Burma is among the poorest countries of the world, the Chin State is the poorest state in Burma.

 

1) Political turmoil and bad administration

 

For several decades, against the will of the Chin people, the Burmese military regime has been controlling the Chins and their inherited land. In 1988, there was a public demonstration by Chin students, workers and the general public against the military regime. But when the military regime brutally oppressed the pro-democratic movement, thousands of Chins left their motherland to escape from the hands of the oppressors. Though the Chin revolutionary movement had started before 1988, the 1988 country-wide pro-democracy demonstration was the most significant event in recent decades in which the Chin people strongly protested against the military regime. This demonstration led to many people being killed, and to thousands leaving their country and seeking refuge in other countries.

 

Under the military regime, all the important administrative posts are controlled by army officers, even at the district and village level, where only the Chin people live on their inherited land. Any army officer has more authority, and is superior to any village president, or the head of the community. These army officers directly controlled the public administration. As a result, all protesters and supporters of democracy were wiped out under martial law. The armed forces, who are not bound by any laws, treat the local people brutally. Thus, the Chins live in constant fear of the armed forces and without any political freedom within their own country.

 

Especially in rural areas, under fear of the armed forces, people do not want to be involved in any aspect of public administration where they have to deal with the armed forces. Any community leader or administrator has to cater to the demands of both the Burmese army and of the underground insurgency group. Many village heads have been condemned with imprisonment, without having undergone the proper legal procedure for helping the underground group.

 

At the same time, the head of the community is the agent of the insurgents for collecting taxes and whatever else they demand from the public. The people actually pay tax twice, once to the Burmese army, and once to the insurgents. When the Burmese army comes to know about it, the head of the village is usually put into jail. Hence, the local people do not want to get involved in any administrative capacity, and the army forces somebody whom they can use as their administrative agent to become the head of the community.

 

The army violates the Chin people’s rights and dignity by their actions. The people are obliged to do anything that the armed forces demand, like portering, forced labour and material contribution etc. Especially in the villages, the army also oppresses the people; murders, rapes, tortures and persecutions are common. Not only does the government not initiate any development projects for the people, it does not even allow them to do any development work for themselves. In such a situation, the society becomes disorganised and the people fear the armed forces. They are unable to work towards their progress. This has caused many of them to leave their country and seek refuge in neighbouring countries. Though they are homeless and live as illegal immigrants, they prefer their exiled lives, as they have escaped fear and hunger in their hometown.

 

Throughout the political and economic crisis in Burma, the bad administration has affected public education. Since 1988, there has been no proper educational programme. Schools, colleges and universities have been closed from time to time. Due to the sharp political contentions between the military regime and the public, the schools could not be run efficiently. Due to poverty, teachers could not concentrate on their duties. The teachers and lecturers earn meagre salaries, which are below their minimum basic expenditure. There are many private tuition classes started by the lecturers. For students to pass their examinations, it is necessary for them to attend these classes, but the poorer class students cannot afford the fees. As a result, many people could not let their children continue their education, and many of the children are demoralised. Even the students who can meet the higher costs cannot hope to work for the military regime, because the employme! nt opportunities are very limited and the wages are meagre. This situation crushes all expectations of the young people. As a result, the people have remained without adequate education, and most of the Chin refugees are not highly educated.

 

2) Forced labour

 

Forced labour has caused thousands of people to leave their country. It consumed the energy, money, materials and time of the Chin people, and was detrimental to their dignity and welfare. Forced labour is used for road construction, army camp construction, hydroelectric project, pottering….? and trench-digging. Not only men and women, but also animals (horse, buffalo etc.) and vehicles are also demanded by the army for their service.

 

Whenever the construction of roads or railways, or maintenance work was undertaken, the people are asked to give their services without being given any wages. People have to go and stay at the location of the work, and carry their own supplies for the duration of the work. At the location, the army guards them with guns.

 

As the strength of the army has been increased, many new army camps are opened and some old camps are expanded in the Chin state. The surrounding villagers have to bring materials for construction, and give as much labour as demanded. They also have to dig trenches within and around the army camps. The Burmese army called forced labour “Luk Aa Pi”, which means “offering service by free will”. Actually, the villagers offered their service against their own free will and due to force, which is in Burmese “Atin Luk Aa Pi”, meaning “forced labour”.

 

In many places, people don’t get time to work for their own livelihood because of the forced labour. Moreover, they still have to pay taxes and give materials and goods to both the military regime and the ethnic insurgents. They have no social security or medical aid. If anybody refuses to obey the orders of the army, or demands his or her rights, he or she is put in jail. Though many are not actually shot down, most of the people are oppressed and suffer economic ruin. As a result, many of them leave their country.

 

3) Democratic Movement

 

Since 1988 Chin students, workers and public have agitated for the Burmese pro-democratic movement, which has cost thousands of lives, and caused the exodus of thousands. Since the tumultuous public demonstration of 1988, many Chins left their home town and fought for the promotion of democratic rule in Burma. Some have joined the violent division, while others have joined the non-violent course for the promotion of democratic rule. Thousands of refugees are in India and other countries.

 

Within and outside Chin State, many have been agitating and fighting for self-determination of Chin people and for the promotion of democratic rule in Burma. Whoever supported the Chin national political movement, the Burmese army crushed them and punished them with endless imprisonment. The Burmese army has been trying to uproot all political activists working against them. There are many who have been in jail for the political movement, and even Chin pastors and religious leaders are also imprisoned on suspicion, without being allowed to undergo the proper judicial procedure in court. Among the Chin political parties and organisations, the prominent ones are the Chin National Front, Chin National Council, Chin National League for Democracy. The Chin political parties and organisations join hands with other democratic fronts of all ethnic groups for the promotion of democratic rule in Burma. Politically, Chins stand for self-determination and for re-establi! shment and reunification within the Federal Union Country, which is possible only with the resurrection of the Panglong agreement.

 

4) Human rights violations

 

As mentioned above, though the natural resources are more than enough for the Chin people to manage and survive within their inherited land, thousands of Chins have left their motherland and sought refuge in India and other neighbouring countries. This is due to the political turmoil and bad administration of the military regime, forced labour and human rights violations by the armed forces, ethnic and religious discrimination, and economic ruin under the military regime. Naturally, Mizoram state of India, where Chin people have sought refuge, has no better resources or means of cultivation, or any additional development project, but the governing system made it different from their inherited land. Some people escaped from the point of the gun and imprisonment, while some others from economic ruin and moral depression. Whatever the exiled Chins may claim about themselves, or however they are treated in their exile lives, the reason for their leaving Burma is! not merely for a better living standard, but to escape from life-threatening situations. Others who do not know how to or cannot move to other parts of the world have stayed within their motherland, where the darkness of moral depression covers the land. In fact, the Chin people leave their own country not because it is naturally bad, or the place of their exile is good, but because they want to escape the brutal oppression of the ruling military regime. And according to the survey, almost all the Chins in Mizoram state will go back to their motherland when the military regime steps down, or is replaced by a democratic federal government, where the people rule.

 

Geographical Background

 

Chin state is located in the western part of Burma, along the international boundary between Burma and India. Besides the present Chin State, some parts of the Chin people’s inherited land are annexed to Magwe and Sagaing divisions. The Chin people’s land was cut in the west by Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram states of India, in the north and east by the Sagaing division, in the south-east by the Magwe division, and in the south by Arakhan state. Almost all areas of Chin state are covered with hills; in Magwe and Sagaing division and in southern Chin there are plains. The mountain peaks are high, the average height being 8700 feet. Arterawtlang (Victoria) is the highest peak at 10,400 feet. In the southern and some lower areas, the high peaks are between 2000 and 4000 feet high. The climate is not extreme, except at the top of the hills. The monsoon lasts from May to October. Average rainfall for the year is between 70 inches and 170 inches. In summer, the temper! ature ranges between 17 to 29 degrees centigrade and in winter temperatures are between 3 to 24 degrees centigrade. Due to the difficult geographical terrain and lack of development, no national highway crosses the Chin state. Only in Sagaing division the national highway crosses the Chin people’s inherited land, connecting the state with Mindat. Mindat has better connections with the central part of the country, and other towns can be reached by a path which can be traversed only by foot, and which is difficult for vehicles to go on. There is no means of air or sea travel within Chin state. Due to the difficult geographical terrain, the rivers of Chin state cannot be used for transportation.

 

There are various sub-tribes of the Chin people, occupying different regions. In the northern part of the Chin people’s inherited land, which is presently included within Sagaing division, Naga-Chin and Kuki-Chin occupied the land. The Naga tribe lives in Naga Hills, which connects with Nagaland state of India. And to the south of Naga Hills, the place called Kabaw valley is occupied by Kuki and some other tribes. This connects to Manipur state of India. The national highway crosses into India through the Kabaw valley, through Moreh town to Imphal, the capital of Manipur state. Below Kabaw valley is the Kale valley where mixed Chin sub-tribes live. The Kale-Kabaw valleys are mostly plains and are rich in agricultural products.

 

In the south of Kale-Kabaw valley is located the Kankaw valley which is occupied by Yaw Chin and some other Chin sub-tribes. From the Kankaw valley to the southern area of Asho, other Chin sub-tribes inhabit the land.

 

Within the present Chin state, starting from the north, specific tribes inhabit the respective districts. The people who call themselves ‘Zomi’ i.e. Paite, Sihzin etc, live in Tidim and Tawnzang districts. And in Falam district live the people who call themselves ‘Laimi’, such as Laizo, Tlaisun, Zaniat, Sim, Jahau, Hualngo etc. And in Thlantlang and Halka districts Zotung, Zophei, Lakher, Cinzah etc. call themselves ‘laimi’. In these three districts, Falam, Haka and Thlantlang, the people call themselves ‘Laimi’. Though there are different dialects, the people are able to communicate well with one another using their own dialects. Coming to the southern part of Chin State, Matupi district is occupied by Matu and other sub-tribes of Chins. And in Mindat, Kanpalet and Paletwa districts, Asho, Cho, Khumi and other sub-tribes of the Chins live. Compared to northern Chin state, the southern part of the state lacks roadways for transport. Between southern and nort! hern Chin state there is no road fit for vehicular traffic, but only foot-paths; to this day people go by foot to the southern or northern part of the State. Therefore, there has been no socio-cultural exchange between the south and north. This has caused a lack of understanding between the Chin people.

 

Each of the Chin sub-tribes has its own region. Since times of unwritten history, each of the Chin sub-tribes has lived by itself with its own tribal chief within its own independent territory. Before the British colonisation, historically there were constant wars between the tribes and sub-tribes. S such, they did not have an opportunity to develop a common language with which all Chins could communicate with each other.

 

The most common ways

 

Naga-Chins, who originated in Naga Hills of northern Sagaing division, which extends into Nagaland state of India, Kukis and some other tribes go to Manipur state of India through the border trade road, which crosses from Tamu of Sagaing division to Moreh, and then to Imphal, the capital city of Manipur state. This border trade is an important road by which smugglers, business men and women cross the country. In Manipur state, there are some tribes of the Chin people : Kukis, Paite, Zomi, Hmar, Kom etc., who welcome the Chin refugees and immigrants. The refugees from Tawnzang and Tidim districts of Chin state go to Manipur state where the same sub-tribes live, who were annexed to India in the time of the British.

 

There are foot-paths which cross the border from Twanzing and Tidim districts of northern Chin state to Manipur state and Mizoram state : Phaisat-Hengtam, Aisih-Sialsih, Vanglai-Sialsi, Khuavum-Beheng, Haichi-Beheng, Pangmual-Kangkap, Suangbem-Sinjol; and these are foot-paths to Mizoram state : Haichin-Minbung, Selbung-Vaikhawtlang, Tuimang-Khuangphah, Bapi-Hnahlan, Dankhan-Hnahlan, Khawzimte-Tlangsam. Moreover, there is a small vehicle road from Tawnzang of Chin state to Bualkot village of Manipur, and one from Tidim of Chin state to Champhai of Mizoram. This road crosses the border to Tio village in Falam district of Chin state and then Zokhawthar of Champhai district, which are located by the side of Tio river, along the boundary.

 

From Falam of Chin state, there is one motorable road which passes through the above-mentioned border villages – Rihkhawdar in Chin state and Zokhawthar in Champhai district – and then reaches Champhai of Mizoram state. There are some foot-paths which connect Falam district of Chin state and Mizoram state (naming Chin state villages first and Mizoram state villages second) : Khawthlir-Bulfek, Surbung-Lianpui, Satawn-Vaphai, Leilet-Vaphai, and Farkawn Ngailan-Khankawn.

 

The following are some footpaths from Thlantlang district of Chin state to Mizoram state : Tlanglo-Farkawn, Zangtlang-Thakte, Dawn-Thakte, and Lungreng, Ralpel-Nagarchip, Lungler-Thingsai, Bungtlang-Bualpui, and Mullianpui, Siallam-Thaltlang, Belbar-Niawhtlang, Tluangram-Lungbun, Zephai-Ainak, Ngalang-Ainik, Lungchawi-Chakang. And some footpaths from southern part of Chin state are : Darling-Chapui, Hlungmang-Chapui, and Khopai. There are also some footpaths, which are not maintained properly, but are used for travelling to Mizoram.

 

There are two entrances to Chin state from the central part of Burma – The first one is from Kalemyo to Chin state crossing Tidim in one way and Falam in another way, both of which meet at Tio villages of Falam district at the border, to Champhai district of Mizoram. The second entrance way to Chin state from the central part of Burma is Mungzua-Kankaw-Haka, which reaches Thlantlang. There is only one motorable road that properly reaches Mizoram and touches the Mizoram vehicle road at the border; which is both from Falam and Tidim to Tio river. This is the main way by which the Chin people travel to Mizoram. Besides this, in Chin state, there is one border trade road from Sagaing division, which crosses the Chin people’s inherited land, and goes to Manipur state of India. This is the biggest and most important road for Indo-Burma border trade and most of the smugglers and business people use this.

 

Most of the refugees from Sagaing division, and northern Chin state Tidim, Tawnzang and Falam districts go to northern part of Mizoram. And those of Haka, Thlantlang, and southern part of Chin state Matupi, Mindat, Kanpalet, Paletwa go to southern part of Mizoram state. Though there is no motorable road crossing the border in the southern part, people go to Mizoram by foot.

 

The distances from the district centres of northern Chin state to the Indo-Burma border are below 100 miles; from Tawnzang and Tidim around 40 miles, from Falam 60 miles, from Haka around 70 miles and from Thlantlang around 40 miles. In the southern part, Matupi is the nearest to Mizoram state. While Mindat and Kanpalet are located close to the central part of Burma, they are far from the Indian border compared to the northern district centres. Paletwa, located at the Southwest of Chin state, has poor ways and means of transportation. Therefore, there are only a few refugees and immigrants from southern people of Chins in Mizoram, compared to the northern peoples. Most of the Chin refugees are from northern and central part of Chin state and from Sagaing division.

 

Settlement

 

For entering India, there are several check gates in the border area, but foreigners’ entry is not totally restricted as India is a democratic country. Moreover, due to the facial similarity between Chins and Mizos, it is very difficult to identify foreigners. In the police stations, there are cases registered against the foreigners for being in Mizoram without legal documents. There is no legal document issued to the Chins, such as temporary visiting permit or residential permit. But the Chins don’t have much difficulty in entering Mizoram state. According to the State Home Minister’s report, 901 Burmese were deported to Burma during 1999. Moreover, hundreds of Chins are stopped and pushed back everyday from Champhai, which is the main entrance to Mizoram for Chins.

 

From 1988 to 1994, there had been a refugee camp in Champhai, which is 20 kms from the Burma border. But that is no more. Thereafter, there have been no refugee camps or registration offices in Mizoram state. Hence, refugees seek their own shelter using their own means.

 

According to the Chin tradition, begging is a shameful act. As such, even as refugees, the Chins do not beg or ask for help from the Mizoram people, but try to survive by their own means.

 

As mentioned above, most Chin refugees from Sagaing division, Kukis and some other Chin tribes go to Manipur state of India, especially to Lamka district of Manipur state. Lamka district was originally owned by the Chin people. And from Tidim and Tawnzang districts of Chin state, people also go to Manipur, which is geographically and ethnically close to the land and the people.

 

People of various sub-tribes from Kale Valley of Sagaing division, Tidim, Tawnzang and Falam districts of northern Chin state go to places in northern Mizoram such as Champhai and Aizawl districts. The people from Tidim and Tawnzang who call themselves ‘Zomi’, speak the same language as that of the Zomi language in Mizoram and Manipur. There are some tribes in Mizoram state that are the same as Zomi tribes of Chin state. Falam people easily speak Mizo language because Falam language is close to Mizo language. Moreover, Hualngo tribe of Falam speaks the same Mizo language of Mizoram state. Falam people call themselves ‘Laimi’, but there are several sub-tribes such as Laizo, Tlaisun, Zangiat, Sim, Zahau, Hualngo etc. Likewise, there are sub-tribes among the Zomi – Paite, Sihzin etc.

 

Most of the people from Haka, Thlantlang and Matupi districts go to middle and southern part of Mizoram i.e. Saiha, Lunglei, Lawngtlai districts. In the villages of the border area, there is a concentration of Chin refugees, since most of the refugee families settle there so that they can easily get the kind of work (farming and cultivation) they are already familiar with. According to a council member of a border village in Champhai district, there are 60 Chin refugee families in one particular village. In some places, the local people share their land with the refugees for cultivation. As there is no refugee resettlement programme, nor a registration office that restricts the movement of the refugees in Mizoram state, many people move around the state wherever they can get jobs for their survival. The refugees and the local Mizo people do not use the term ‘refugee’, since they find it strange. Also, for the sake of their own security, the refugees try to b! e assimilated by the local Mizo people as soon as they settle within Mizoram.

 

 

VOL.IV No.I JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2001 Interview With Lieutenant Colonel Biak To

The life and views of a veteran Army and Police Officer

 

( Rhododendron Note: Lieutenant Colonel Biak To a B.A graduate from Mandalay University, enlisted as a private in the Burmese Army on 17 November 1973 after he found out that his movement as leader of Haka University Students Association was closely monitored by the notorious Military Intelligence Service (MIS). It was the time when a new constitution for Socialist authoritarian regime was being drafted in Burma and the authorities were in full alert to crush every possible hindrance to the progress of constitutional making process. After going through different levels of military training with a number of postings in different parts of Burma including one in the Light Infantry Battalion (101) under Divisional Command 77 stationed in Wa area, he became a Captain in 1984.

 

In 1990, he shifted from the Army to Police service on a rank-to-rank basis, becoming a police inspector. Being an educated man with adequate service experience, he was promoted Major in 1994. And by 1998, he became Lieutenant Colonel in the 1st Police Regiment.

 

In 200, for the reason that was never made clear to him, Lt. Colonel Biak To had his position stripped off from him. Much to his surprise, he was fired with a fine of Kyats 15,9000, which he had to pay apparently without knowing why.

 

In the following disclosure to CHRO, Lt. Colonel Biak To revealed how he was discriminated and unfairly treated by his superiors in the Army and Police simply because of his religious and ethnic identity. He also explained his views and perspectives involving the various aspects of problems facing Burma.)

 

CHRO: How was your life during your service in the Burmese Army and Police?

 

Lt. Col. BT: My father was Rev. Lal Hnin. He was one of the first Chin converts into Christianity. So, I was grown up in a good Christian family. I finished high school from Haka State High School and graduated from Mandalay University in 1972.

 

I was a weight lifter and healthy young man. I would like to become an army officer. Therefore, after my graduation from university, I applied for Military Officer Training School. However, because I am a Chin ethnic nationality, my application was not considered. So, I joined the army as a private on November 17,1973. I tried very hard to please my superiors in performing my duties. I was promoted to Lance corporal in February l976 and corporal in October of the same year in 1976. Because of my work performance, I was allowed to join Officer Training School in 1979 in service. Then I became second Lieutenant in April 1980. That means it took me almost 8 years to reach this level while other Burmese Buddhist graduates could attain this level of rank just one year after their graduation from a university.

 

The vast majority of the ranking officers in the Burmese Army are Burman Budhists. As a result, I was always discriminated against the dominant Budhists for my being an ethnic Chin Christian. For example, the non-Burman soldiers were selectively assigned in the front line to fight against the Karen rebels, saying that we were brave and loyal. The ethnic soldiers were, in fact, respected as the most brave and hardy fighters in the Burmese Army. As ethnic minority soldiers, we enjoyed virtually no rest time and were never given permission or leave to visit our relatives. The most frustrating thing was when we returned from a successful operation or captured enemy positions, the Burman soldiers who remained in the camps all the while and did not participate in the actual combat got promoted, while we, the actual fighters were neglected for promotions. A Burman officer with less educational background and service experience would become a Colonel while I remained as a Captain. Our superiors would always encourage us to become Budhists so as to be considered for promotions, but we always chose not to be promoted than abandoning our faith. An ethnic soldier would not be promoted to a position higher than Major regardless of his service years and how many times he had been transferred.

 

There is no difference in the Police either. We were repeatedly told to convert to Buddhism if we really aspired for promotions. This also tended to be a mere deception. A close friend of mine, Thein Lwin, an ethnic Shan Christian converted to Buddhism for want of promotions but was never promoted. He just ended up being cheated of his faith.

 

On July 10, 2000, I gave a speech to the police parade mentioning my being a Chin Christian and son of a pastor that from childhood, I never wanted to tell lies, steal or misbehave and that I wanted everyone to do likewise. Four days later, on July 14, I received an order saying that I have been dismissed from the police.

 

CHRO: Do you know the reason why you were laid off?

 

Lt.Co. BT: I still have no idea on what exact account I was dismissed. The order came all of a sudden without any formal procedures. Under normal circumstances either a preliminary inquiry or departmental inquiry should have been conducted before a government service could be tried for any misconduct or violations of rules. There was not any such thing happening in my case. At the time of my dismissal, I was the only person holding a B.A degree among officers of my rank in the entire nine Police Regiments in Burma. In fact, I should have been the first one to be considered for promotions. Obviously, the authorities did not want to see a Chin Christian holding high position that they made a pre-emptive move to dismiss me without any apparent charges. It just did not end with my dismissal. In an attempt to prevent me from leaving the country, the authorities disqualified me from being eligible for a passport in seven years. However, I was able to obtain a passport under a fake name and secretly managed to sneak out of the country. I have a wife and three children remaining in Burma. I am constantly worried about them because if the authorities found out my absence, they would be subject to harassment and persecution.

 

CHRO: As a middle rank police officer, can you tell us about the prison conditions in Burma? Under what conditions do the prisoners commonly live?

 

Lt.Col. BT: Prison conditions differ from one another. In a major prison like Insein prison, different inmates receive different treatment depending on the severity and importance of their case. Inmates serving political sentence would receive better treatments in terms of food and facilities so as to look good before foreign agencies that might come to assess the prison conditions. All the prisoners in general, are not adequately receiving food and medical attention. In some cases, prisoners mostly depend on their relatives who brought them food from outside. Prisoners having no relatives around have to stay hungry. There are nine hard labor camps across Burma in which inmates have to work on government’s agricultural projects and road construction etc. This usually happened under serious conditions and beyond the prisoners can endure. There is no medical treatment available for them unless their relatives can send them money to guy it. But the jail officials would always take the money for themselves. The number of death in prisons is dramatically increasing everywhere. People are so much afraid of being ended up in the country’s prison that they are fleeing the county each day.

 

CHRO: What is the nexus between the military regime and drug?

 

I do not know much about the drug. Drugs come mostly from the area controlled by Wa militants, which had signed cease-fire agreement with the SPDC. This drug involved mostly stimulant tablets and fewer amount of cocaine. There are more than 50 such refinery machines operating in Wa area. These drugs are transported and smuggled out to Thailand from where they are transported again to other countries.

 

CHRO: How would you describe your views with regards to the present military regime and the country’s problems in general?

 

What appears to be the main problem with the present military regime is a notion that they can stay in power as long as they can cheat the people. They do not seem to care about what is going on around the world other than their own ideological belief. They have sold off all the country’s natural resources including teaks and gemstones and pocketed it for themselves. Huge amount of money is spent on military hard wares and equipments. They projected some money on building bridges and dams, which they boasted them in the State-controlled Television broadcast and newspapers as the unprecedented achievements that ever happened only under their reign. They believe that no one including the UN can interfere with the internal matters and that they will run the country as they like.

 

What military regime has in mind is only the benefits and welfare of their own families while the people at large are being pushed to the point of starvation. Prices are skyrocketing day after day and year after year. A person could live easily on 3.15 kyats a day earning in the 1960s. But today, kyats 300 cannot even survive a person. Inflation rate is fast becoming high because the government had allowed former Drug lord Khunsa and his associates to launder their drug money in the country, which involved large scale buying of properties and land across the country.

 

The question of democracy seems to be still far away. The military officials have enjoyed very much the taste of being in power that they will never want cede it again. They do not even attempt to understand what democracy really is. The cry of ethnic minority for self-determination and federalism means some sort of separatism or independence movement to the military junta. All their intention and attempts are only to suppress any kind of elements they deem a threat to them. Their targets have constantly been the NLD and Aungsan Suukyi. They are now trying to expand the arm force on a daily basis. More than thrice the numbers of normal recruits are now in the Defense Studies Academy in Maymyo. Because the junta has held everything so tight that without any assistance or effective pressure from abroad, I think the question of democracy is still not within reach.

 

Burmese Soldiers Stole A Church’s Solar Plate

 

Burmese soldiers led by Lt. Kyaw Min of Light Infantry Battalion ( LIB ) 266 in Vuangtu camp, Thantlang township, Chin State stole a solar plate and a 12-volt battery from Lawngtlang (B) village on October 13, 2000. The soldiers, who said they were running out of battery, asked the headman of the village to find a solar plate. The headman, Lian Rem ( name change ), told the officer that the village didn’t have a solar plate, but unfortunately, the officer saw one that was being charged in the sunlight, and he told the headman to pick it. The headman explained that that was the property of a Church. The officer threatened him and forced him to take the solar plate which he would take for nothing.

 

The villagers expected that they would get it back the next day, but the platoon commander Lt. Kyaw Min asked them to send two porters to carry the solar plate and the battery to his camp to be his property. It worths over Ks. 100000, including the labor charge. The solar plate was donated to the Church by Lawngtlang natives working in Malaysia. Vuangtu and Lawngtlang are villages in Thantlang township, Chin State.

 

The soldiers in Vuangtu camp had been reported to have the practice of taking properties from business people who come and go through Hlamphei, Khuabung ‘A’ and Lawngtlang ‘A’.

 

In July 2000, they took 70 heads of cattle from smugglers and sold them in the villages for their own pocket. They also seized 15 horse-loads of goods which the owners never got back. In addition, the soldiers asked the village headmen to help them cover what they did to the smugglers. When the headmen denied, they were threatened and disturbed by the Burmese soldiers in several ways. The name of the headmen are hidden for security reason.

 

Burma Orders Christians In Chin State Not To Celebrate Christmas

Democratic Voice of Burma, Oslo, in Burmese 1245 gmt 23 Dec 00

 

The SPDC State Peace and Development Council army has ordered major cities in Chin State, where over 90 per cent of the people are Christians, not to hold any grand Christmas celebrations and some villages are not even allowed to hold any celebration at all. New Delhi based DVB Democratic Voice of Burma correspondent Thet Naing filed this report.

 

Begin Thet Naing recording The SPDC frontline troops summoned people from Haka and Thangtlang Townships in Chin State and told them they were not allowed to hold any Christmas ceremony and prayer meeting. They went from village to village and told them if they wanted to hold any ceremony they are to hold it in a simple and discrete manner at their homes. Although the chairmen of the village Peace and Development Councils and pastors argued that Christmas is a very auspicious feast for Christians and requested them to allow Christmas celebrations the column commander of the SPDC forces refused and said that if they hold any such ceremonies rebels from the Chin National Front, CNF, could infiltrate and that is the reason such ceremonies are not allowed.

 

He continued to say if the chairmen and pastors deliberately hold any such Christmas feast in defiance of the order, the village chairmen and pastors will all be arrested and recruited as porters. They also threatened them that the people from southern China State will work as porters carrying things up north and people from northern Chin State will work as porters carrying stuff down south. A villager from Longlei Village in Thangtlang Township, who arrived recently in India, said that the Chin Christians are angry at the junta’s threat and they are now undecided whether to hold the Christmas celebrations and also worry about what will happen to them if they are forcibly taken as porters for celebrating the feast. The SPDC has ordered only low key celebrations ward-wise in Haka, Falam, and Tiddim in Chin State. End of recording

 

Supply Wood Or Pay Fine

 

Each block of villages in Paletwa area, Southern Chin State, were forced to supply wood of 75 cubic feet per block. The defaulter Hemapi block had to pay the fine of Ks. 60000 to Major Zaw Tun, the battalion commander of Sinletwa. The Battalion, Light Infantry Battalion LIB 538, issued an order that each of the 18 blocks in the surrounding area must saw the wood and send to him. The villagers were cheated that the wood would be used for building boats for the convenience of the public.

 

In October 2000, the Platoon commander Kyaw Kyaw Oo of LIB 538 ordered the villages of Pathiantlang (Upper and Lower), Sia Oo, Hemate and Hemapi to supply 150 cubic feet each as a punishment for having moved the villages two years ago.Major Zaw Tun sold the wood to traders in ThuraAi for Ks. 1000 per cubic feet, only for his own pocket. It was learnt that he issued the order after the ThuraAi traders gave him the advice to do so, and offered a good deal. In the transaction, the traders were given the right to reject wood with flaws, in which case, the villagers were told to supply “good wood.”

 

In remote areas like Sinletwa, not every village has people who know how to saw wood. Shortage of tools is another problem. Some villages had to hire wood men for Ks. 500 per person per day. Maung Tin Aye and Kyaw Thein of ThuraAi, Tun Win of Sinletwa, and Aung Tun Hla of Sweletwa were reported to have purchased the wood from Major Zaw Tun.

 

Soldiers who had a temporary camp in Sweletwa, Sinowa and Puahhmung demanded 2 persons from each block, to serve in the camp. The villagers serve in the camp as slave labours, doing whatever they were told including night sentry.

 

Villagers of Para, Tlopi, Hemapi, Hemate, Pintia, uppper and lower Pathiantlang, Mau, Salangpi and Arakan villages near Saiha held a meeting on September 17, and decided to report the deeds of the camp commanders to higher authorities. Each household in the whole area contributed Ks. 100 for the expenses of those who would go for the reporting to plain Burma.

 

UNHCR To Cut Monthly Allowance To Burmese Refugees In India

 

New Delhi, January 16, 2000

 

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office in India has informed the Burmese refugees in New Delhi that it would not be possible to continue to provide monthly subsistence allowances (SA) to all refugees due to the level of UNHCR voluntary funds available for the year 2001. Although UNHCR officials have not announced when exactly the SA will be cut, it is now talking with the representatives of Burmese refugees to evolve alternatives such as loan schemes and skill-related training for the refugees.

 

In recent two meetings held on 14 December and 15 January, 2001 with representatives of Burmese refugees, UNHCR officials cited the reason of SA cut as low availability of financial contributions from donor countries for this year. As a result, while UNHCR (India) had received the budget allocation of US $ 1.6 millions last year, only US $ 1.2 millions is allocated for the New Delhi Office for the year 2001. Moreover, 20% of the allocated budget for this year is again to be frozen as some donor countries might not fully contribute their promised amount.

 

“With this in mind, the further extension of monthly subsistence allowances to all refugees would not be possible beyond UNHCR present financial commitment”, said UNHCR in a latter sent out to refugees’ representatives. Marie-Jose Canelli, Officer Incharge, signed the letter. It claimed that UNHCR (India) spent 40% of last year’s budget amounting to US dollar six hundred thousands only for the SA of Afghanistan and Burmese refugees in India.

 

UNHCR provides monthly Subsistence Allowance of Indian Rupees 1,400 (US $ 30) per person to most of the Burmese refugees in Delhi. There are around 800 Burmese refugees living under the mandate of UNHCR in India. The Government of India has, since late 1999, issued Residential Permit (RP) for the UNHCR-recognized Burmese refugees and the permit is to be renewed every six month.

 

UNHCR is now seeking the active involvement of the Burmese refugee community in activities geared towards improving their self-reliance, from planning to execution. It has advised the Burmese refugees to set up various Committees, which would work on the projected activities towards welfare and self-reliance of the refugees. It is, however, to continue to provide SA, through its one of NGO partners in Delhi, to the extremely vulnerable individuals and would continue to subsidize refugee children’s access to education.

 

Burmese refugee community in New Delhi responded the news with dismay and urged the UNHCR either to continue the monthly Subsistence Allowance or resettle them in the third countries such as USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

 

“We are shocked to hear the news of SA cut. Going back to our own country means imprisonment for life and death for us”, said Elvis Ceu, an ethnic Chin national from Burma. Except some, many of the Burmese refugees are not interested in self-reliance activities as they said it would be very difficult for them to work in India. However, for UNHCR, “resettlement” is the least preferred solution as it entirely depends on those countries to accept the refugees.

 

Source: Mizzima News Group (www.mizzima.com)

 

Burmese Seeking U.S. Asylum Held In Custody, Limbo In Guam

By Fredric N. Tulsky

The San Jose Mercury News, January 23, 2001

 

GUAM — In the past several months, more than 700 Burmese people have fled the repressive regime back home and made their way to this small Pacific island, hoping for refuge in the United States.

 

Instead, they have found themselves trapped.

 

They got in thanks to a visa loophole designed to encourage tourism in the U.S. protectorate. They stayed because what they came for was political asylum in the mainland United States. But with a backlog in the system and no asylum officials in place on the island, the refugees are marooned,waiting months, or years, for the U.S. Justice Department to consider their pleas.

 

Their treatment reveals yet another way in which the U.S. asylum system fails to protect vulnerable refugees. The Mercury News previously reported that the asylum system is marred by gross disparities in the outcome of cases depending on which administrative judge hears the case, and whether the asylum seeker is represented by a lawyer.

 

The Burmese refugees stranded on Guam are living crowded by the dozens in small private houses. Not eligible for work permits or government aid, they survive on handouts from church groups. Most are left to pursue their asylum claims on their own, unable to afford the few local attorneys willing to help.

 

Thirty-eight others fared even worse: They have spent months locked up in the Guam Detention Center because they answered honestly at the airport when asked if they intended to seek asylum in the U.S. or to stay in Guam for just 15 days and return home. Under detention, husbands and wives, sisters and brothers, have been separated for months. A pregnant woman was kept in isolation in a cramped, locked cell for four months because officials feared that she might be carrying tuberculosis and were afraid — because of her pregnancy — to conduct a chest X-ray.

 

Last week, a delegation of church officials, accompanied by Mercury News staff members and interpreters, arrived to document the conditions. The Guam governor, after meeting with representatives from Church World Service, the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, and local church officials, protested the situation to Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) officials in Washington.

 

The INS had taken the position that the visa-waiver program rules meant they could neither release those in custody nor permit others to travel to the mainland United States. This week, INS officials said the agency has agreed to ease its stance and release the Burmese in custody in Guam, and will consider permitting them to relocate to the mainland United States while their asylum claims are pending.

 

The change in policy brought immediate, if cautious, reaction. “The detention of this group of people, who were not given a chance to even apply for release, was inappropriate,” said Matthew Wilch of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service in Baltimore, who was part of the group. “But we remain concerned about the large number of people who fled persecution and remain stranded on the island.”

 

A U.S. territory not much larger in area than the city of San Jose, Guam is situated thousands of miles closer to Asia than any other place where U.S. immigration law applies.

 

That has made it a target not just for Burmese. In recent years, Chinese smugglers trying to transport laborers from Fujian province have used Guam as a route to the United States. Guam officials fear signs of a new effort in several recent incidents in which fishing boats have pulled close to shore and left Chinese passengers to swim to the island. Two such passengers died offshore earlier this month, apparently mauled while trying to swim over the rough coral reef, and then attacked by sharks.

 

The Burmese first trickled into Guam, but over the past six months, the numbers swelled; hundreds of Burmese came, including doctors and engineers, pastors and teachers. They came seeking political and religious freedom and telling stories of arrest and torture for practicing Christianity or demonstrating for democracy.

 

They arrived with valid passports but nothing more. Since 1986, Burma, also known as Myanmar, had been among the countries whose residents did not need visas in order to visit Guam. The visa-waiver program was established to attract Asian vacationers to the island, which suffers from a double-digit unemployment rate.

 

Most of the Burmese got through the airport, but then found nowhere to go.

 

Sa Tin Lai, 32, was a pastor for the largely Christian Chin community of Burma until he fled to Guam last November. Lai said that he became politically active in college, and was involved in the 1988 student uprisings.

 

Lai said that he was arrested and held for 25 days and interrogated day and night about the student movement. During the questioning, he was slapped, and had a gun held to his head. He described being forced to crawl on his knees over sharp rocks, and being fed rice mixed with sand.

 

After his release, troubles continued for Lai, who received a degree in theology in 1999. He finally fled when the church deacon warned him that his life was in danger because he angered military officials by repairing the water-damaged church.

 

When he arrived in Guam, Lai had no idea where to go. A taxi took him to a local hotel. Staffers there put him in contact with the Chin Christian Fellowship, which arranged for him to stay with four other Chin asylum seekers in a one-bedroom house.

 

On another part of the island, a group of 41 Chin men crowd into a four-bedroom house. There is little furniture; the front room, barren, is used for prayer and for sleep. The men pass the long waiting hours outside striking a ball across the front lawn with a makeshift wooden putter into a white cup in the ground.

 

Thomas Mung, 25, is one of the youngest of the group. The son of a political activist, Mung said he was arrested and beaten for his own political activities as a student. He later produced a magazine, angering military officials again, and eventually fled. Like many of the Burmese refugees on Guam, Mung said that he borrowed money in the summer and paid a broker to arrange his transit out of Burma through Thailand to Guam.

 

“When I arrived, I said to a taxi driver, `Please tell me where the Burmese people are,’ ” Mung said. Asked what comes next, he said simply, “I cannot return to Burma.”

 

Mung and his housemates depend on handouts. As they traded stories near their makeshift putting green, Deacon Frank C. Tenorio of the Catholic archdiocese arrived in a truck, bearing bags of rice. He said he brings food and old furniture when he can to four houses where Burmese live; he has taken eight other Burmese into his own home.

 

“Men are not supposed to cry,” said the deacon, as his eyes filled with tears. “But I am so moved by them; they have been through so much pain. I wish I could do more.”

 

There is little doubt that Burma is a country filled with atrocities committed by the ruling military government. The annual U.S. State Department report cites an “extremely poor human rights record and longstanding severe repression of its citizens.” The military has ruled since 1962 but the situation has worsened since 1988.

 

Burmese people — particularly those from the certain ethnic groups – have been subject to arrest, rape, even death at the hands of military officers, the State Department reports.

 

As a result, Burmese asylum seekers have fared far better than most once reaching U.S. territory. Nationwide, Justice Department statistics analyzed by the Mercury News show, about 55 percent of Burmese applicants won their asylum cases from 1995 through 1999 — a success rate more than twice that of applicants from other countries. The law, in accordance with international convention, offers asylum for people who have a well-founded fear of persecution if sent back home, based on their race, religion, national origin, membership in a social group or because of their political opinion.

 

Neither asylum officers nor immigration judges are based in Guam, leaving the department struggling to keep up with the growing number of asylum seekers.

 

More than 500 asylum applicants have not yet had hearings, and scores more Burmese have not yet submitted their asylum applications. One woman, 23, said she fled her homeland after she was threatened with military arrest because of her political activism; she arrived in Guam in 1998, and is still waiting for a hearing before an asylum officer.

 

None of the scores of asylum seekers interviewed outside of custody last week had lawyers. “Nobody can afford one,” said Dan Baumwang, an engineer and member of the Christian Kachin ethnic minority, who fled Burma last year. “Many thought when they got here they were finished.’

 

Baumwang, who was educated in London, lives with 23 other Kachin people in two adjoining two-bedroom apartments. On a nail on his wall are the tales of seven compatriots, written in their own hands, in their own language.

 

He provides them copies of the asylum application, and translates their statements. Baumwang said he had not even suggested to the asylum seekers that they should try to find any documentation to support their testimony; they were afraid to take any political or religious materials with them.

 

“I don’t know how they would get such things,” he said.

 

Under the tourism promotion program, most of the Burmese refugees were waived through the airport when they arrived. The INS officer in charge of Guam, David Johnston, said that he instructed the airport inspectors not to profile arriving foreign citizens based on ethnicity if they had valid passports.

 

But several dozen were stopped because they stood out, such as the 21 Burmese who arrived on the same flight on Oct. 3. Although they did not know each other, a broker had arranged their passage together.

 

The group was sent for detailed questioning by airport inspectors. One after another, they said freely that they were hoping to apply for asylum and stay in the United States. Their honesty was costly. They were sent to jail.

 

Johnston said the regulations gave him no choice: Burmese who did not intend to return home within the 15-day limit of the visa-waiver program were violating the rule and had to sit in custody until they were granted asylum by an administrative immigration judge.

 

They are held at the Guam Detention Center, where INS detainees make up roughly half the prison population, said the warden, Francisco Cristosomo. The men live in two large, air-conditioned barracks built in 1999 in response to a flood of Chinese boat people.

 

A third barracks sits empty. It was built to house women, but with just 11 Chinese and six Burmese women in custody, prison officials said it is more efficient to hold them in jail cells. They live with the local prison inmates, sometimes as many as four to a cell the size of a walk-in closet.

 

One of the women is an ethnic Chin, whose father was a Christian pastor. She said she was arrested in Burma in 1993 after she spoke against the government within earshot of an army officer. She said the officer then beat and raped her. She fled to India but last year, when she no longer felt safe there, she returned to Burma.

 

She continued her political activity and heard that the military officer was after her once again, so she fled to Guam. When she arrived, she tested positive for tuberculosis in a skin test. Because she was pregnant, officials were afraid to take an X-ray. Instead, they kept her in isolation.

 

But when the church group toured the prison last week and found the woman, they were alarmed by the effect of months of isolation. The Rev. Jerry Elmore, pastor of the local University Baptist Church, offered to sponsor the woman himself, so she could be released from custody to his care.

 

Officials balked. But a day later, she was released and given a chest X-ray. “I am happier,” she told a reporter who toured the facility the following day. “But I still feel weak and afraid in this place.”

 

In October, Robert A. Underwood, the island’s non-voting congressional representative, asked INS officials to drop Burma from the visa-waiver program. He said he feared that the Burmese asylum-seekers could cause the entire program to be curtailed. Citing “law enforcement and national security interests,” the Justice Department dropped Burma from the program as of Jan. 10.

 

That change is what made officials more receptive to releasing the Burmese refugees already on Guam, said Wilch, the Lutheran advocate for asylum seekers. With Burma off the program, he said, the INS could release the asylum-seekers without worrying that Guam would become a magnet.

 

`It worked out perfectly in terms of timing for the people there,” said Wilch. But, he added, “that still leaves one unanswered concern: What about the people who are still in Burma? We have no answer for that.”

 

Ecumenical Group Led By Church World Service Secures The Release Of Asylum Seekers From Burma

 

January 30, 2001, NEW YORK CITY – An ecumenical group composed of staff from the Church World Service Immigration and Refugee Program, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, the Southern Baptist Convention, and the Chin Freedom Coalition traveled to Guam the week of January 15 to advocate for the release of 39 asylum seekers from Burma detained by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). The ecumenical group worked with the Governor of Guam, the INS and churches already supporting the asylum seekers from Burma to secure their release, which began Monday, January 29.

 

The 39 asylum seekers of Chin ethnicity fled their country to escape religious persecution and ethnic cleansing by the military regime of Myanmar (also known as Burma). For the past six months, they have been detained by the Department of Corrections since their arrival in Guam.

 

“The compelling nature of their claims is what brought me here,” explained Matt Wilch director for immigration and asylum concerns at Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service. “So far, the grant rate of this group is 95%. These are people fleeing torture, rape, and scorched earth tactics against their communities all because they insist on practicing their Christian faith and promoting democratic ideals. They deserve our protection and quick relief.”

 

The ecumenical group toured the prison where the 39 asylum seekers were detained, made pastoral visits to their quarters, visited other asylum seekers living on the island and met with ethnic organizations working for the release of the detainees. “We feel that these refugees face unnecessary hurdles in the asylum process,” remarked Rev. Joan Maruskin, Washington Representative for Church World Service. “They live in terribly cramped conditions and wait for months to have their claims adjudicated by the INS. We want to bring these problems to light and help the refugees find solutions which will lead to their safety and ability to reestablish their lives.”

 

The delegation began its efforts on Guam by meeting with the church groups who support the more than 800 asylum seekers from Burma already living on the island while they await the adjudication of their claims. Only two lawyers are available to process the claims of asylum seekers on Guam, so the wait is long. A coalition of Protestant and Catholic groups has provided the refugees with food, shelter, clothing and other assistance as they go through the asylum process.

 

Delegates met with the Governor of Guam, Mr. Carl T.C. Gutierrez, on January 18 to enlist his support for the refugees’ release. The Governor commended the group’s efforts and the efforts of Guam’s church groups to support the refugees. He then sent a letter to the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service headquarters to ask for the group’s release to the community and quick adjudication of their asylum claims.

 

The ecumenical delegation included Rev. Maruskin, Helen Morris and Adijatu Abiose, Esq. of Church World Service; Matt Wilch of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service; Zo T. Hmung of Chin Freedom Coalition; and Dr. Donoso Escobar of the Southern Baptist Convention; and Rev. Euford from the Hawaii Pacific Baptist Convention.

 

Contact: Church World Service (212) 870-3153 Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (410) 230-2791 01/30/01

 

THE CHIN IDENTITY CRISIS

By Richard Zatu

 

Can you identify a Chin national in the streets of Yangon, Mandalay or elsewhere? Chances are that you can’t. However, you’ll be able, most of the time, to tell an Indian or a Chinese by the colour of his skin. But it is difficult, sometimes impossible, to differentiate other racial groups of Myanmar from another by appearance since we all have similar skin colour and roughly the same body build.

 

One way to know a certain national is by the clothes he wears. Some people will know a Chin national by the “Chin” longyi, htamein or jacket he puts on or the “Chin” Shan bag slinging over his shoulders or the “Chin” tie in his neck. But this could be deceptive for anyone can buy these and wear them. A pair of trousers is more common among the Chins than other ethnic groups in our country. But this is not an accurate or proper way of finding out who is a Chin. More and more Chins, especially government employees, are clad in the Burmese pasoe and taikpon and an increasing number of people in Myanmar are putting on a pair of long pants. This means that you cannot identify a Chin national, or any other nationals for that matter, with the clothes on their backs. But it is often one of the many ways by which to recognize a racial group.

 

Older Chin males have the lob of their ears perforated for wearing an earring. This was one good way of identifying a Chin. But younger Chins have stopped the practice. So perforated ears is no longer a sign of our Chinness.

 

The identification marks mentioned above are mostly physical and are therefore easily recognizable. But there are many other ways in which the Chin people could be identified.

 

For example, a good way to recognize a Chin is by hearing someone speaks one of the many Chin dialects. But of course there’s always an exception to the rule. People of other racial groups may also speak Chin if they had lived in Chin State long enough.

 

Still another method to find out the identity of a Chin is by hearing someone speak Burmese or English with a Chin accent. But one has to be familiar with the accent first.

 

One sure way to know a Chin is to understand that he has a Chin name since no other racial group will adopt one. But one has to be familiar with Chin names first.

 

Although an overwhelming majority of the Chin people are Christians, no knowledgeable person ever identify a people by faith. And it will be impossible to know a person’s faith unless you ask him and he tells you. But the knowledge of the faith of a person by asking or by any other ways often helps other persons to know the former’s identity.

 

Of course there are many more ways of identifying a Chin or members of other tribal groups – like the food he eats, the songs he sings, the customs he is required to follow. But these are not easily perceived unless one interacts or mixed with the people in question.

 

All these means that the Chin person is difficult to recognize because he has little identifications marks.

 

So if you meet a Chin young man with a Burmese name wearing a pasoe and a taikpon or a T shirt and a jean and doesn’t know any Chin dialect and speaks to you in perfect Burmese or in English with a Burmese accent, you won’t be able to know that the young man you are speaking to is a Chin. Such young men and women can be seen everywhere.

 

The above mentioned examples are not the only means by which people can recognize a Chin or other racial groups. If a certain ethnic group is well represented in the government, the military, the professions, business, in music or even in sports, their presence will still be felt and they will still be visible among other racial groups. Unfortunately, this is not the case for the Chin people. Time was when there were Chin ministers of government, Chin Ambassadors, Chin high ranking military officers, well-known Chin boxers, footballers, tennis players. But this is history now. We can say we are no longer as visible as before.

 

Globalization makes the countries of the world more and more like each other in every respect. Larger economies and more advanced civilizations are encroaching upon other smaller economies and less developed civilizations. States and cultures are unable or unwilling to stem the tide.

 

Some languages like English and French, especially English, have mostly replaced native tongues of a large number of nations. It has become the lingua franca of many countries and the second language of many more others. It has become the language of diplomacy, commerce and science. English has become the international language of choice. This is a phenomenon in which internationalization threatens other cultures and identities.

 

Similarly and more easily, larger population and more advanced culture and language within a single country can absorb or edge out smaller ones. Myanmar is no exception. Most of our brethren in Myanmar have now the same faith, the same mode of dress with the Burmese majority, the same culture and have now largely adopted Burmese language and names. So they are more or less like the Burmese and have mostly lost their identity.

 

Compared to other racial groups in our country, we might say that the Chin people still could retain much of their identity. We can say this because, unlike other states, Chin State is the only state in Myanmar where nearly all its inhabitants are the people that bears the name of the state. Unlike other states and divisions, it is the only state where most of its inhabitants are Christians. Unlike other states, it is the state where Burmese is not widely spoken. Unlike other states, with the exception of Kachin State, it is where the ethnic names as opposed to Burmese ones are given widely. Unlike other states or divisions, it is the state where western (make this international) attire as opposed to Burmese dress is most widely worn.

 

But in recent past, the Chin people, like our brethren before us, came in droves to live and settle down in Yangon, Mandalay, or elsewhere. Like our brethren we have and will be adopting the cultures, languages, and mode of dress of the Burmese majority. The Chin young men and women have already and are going to marry outside of their race since they will be mixing with people of other ethnic groups. Chances are that their children will have non-Chin names and will speak no Chin. They will have nothing to do with the Chins. They will be assimilated with others, and we will be assimilated. This is a natural process. We can’t stem the tide.

 

In this way we as a people will lose much of our identity in the not-too-distant future if the present trend continues. And the trend is likely to continue. It is beyond our control. Or is it? Source: “Thinking about Christianity and the Chins in Myanmar”, Yangon, March 1999, Pp 92 – 94.

 

US Refugee Policy Should Include Persecuted Christians in Annual Admissions

Persecuted Karen, Karenni, and Chin Christians Not Allowed

 

Refugee resettlement embodies America’s humanitarian tradition. In a time of increasing tension and conflict, it is essential that America’s door remains open to victims of violence and intolerance who have no other place to go.

 

The legal basis of the refugee admissions program is the Refugee Act of 1980, which defines a refugee in words that closely track those of the 1951 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees: “a refugee is a person who is outside his/her country and is unable or unwilling to return to that country because of a well-founded fear that he/she will be persecuted because of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.” The Act also allows the President to extend this definition to certain persons still resident in countries he specifies.

 

Christians Overlooked

 

Unfortunately, several persecuted communities in Burma with strong historical ties to the U.S. have been overlooked by this policy. The Karen, Karenni, and Chin people are systematically persecuted by the Burmese military government. A very high percentage of these people are Christian and are oppressed because of their ethnicity and faith. These people were our allies in the 2nd World War and fought side by side with our soldiers to repel the Axis forces. They were promised by the British that they would have their own homeland after the war, but it never happened. After the war the Burmese majority–who sided with the Axis–engaged in a policy of ethnic cleansing that continues to this day. The situation deteriorated greatly in 1988 when the military took over the government. The Karen, Karenni, and Chin have been fighting for survival for nearly fifty years, and could be considered the “forgotten people.”

 

Currently more than 100,000 Karen, Karenni, and Chin men, women, and children live in refugee camps in Thailand and India. Thousands more are internally displaced in the Burmese jungle. These internally displaced individuals are cutoff from outside assistance and live one step ahead of roving Burmese soldiers.

 

In FY 1998 the ceiling for refugee admissions from East Asia was 14,000. In the first seven months of that year, some 4,400 refugees arrived in the U.S., only 86 were from Burma. Most of these were ethnic Burmese.

 

In FY 1999, 10,204 refugees entered the United States from East Asia. The majority of FY 1999 admissions were from Vietnam. Again, most, if not all the Burma admissions were ethnic Burmese.

 

Time for Change

 

It is time for the United States to remember our forgotten allies and specifically include the Karen, Karenni, and Chin refugees and displaced persons in the annual admissions from East Asia.

 

Please Contact your Congressional Representatives in Washington today.

www.house.gov

www.senate.gov

 

Source: Christian Freedom International Website

http://www.christianfreedom.org/campaigns/refugeepolicy.html

 

THE CHINS IN THE EYES OF FOREIGNERS

Rev. Dr. Chum Awi

 

The genealogy of the Chin, according to the linguists, stems from Sino- Tibetan which is one out of three language groups, i.e., Altaic, Indo-European, and Austro-Asiatic. Sino-Tibetan gave birth to Tibeto- Burman which in turn gave birth to Tibetan, Yi( Lolo ), Pui( Minchia), TuChia, Hani( Woni), Lisu, Lahu, Nasi(Moso), Chingpo(Kachin), Chiang( Chin), Nu, and Tulung ( see Encyclopedia Britanica). Early writers, both British and Americans, mentioned the name of the Chins as Khang, Khiang or whatsoever. The words Chin, Chiang or Khiang were romanization of the original Chinese word ” Yin.”

 

The Chins are found in India, Bangladesh, and in Burma. There are Chins who live in plain areas and those who live on mountains have a word “zo” to describe places which are high and cold. Some Chins are propagating “zo-mi” as their original name. In fact, the genetic word “Chin” comes from the Chinese word “Yin” which means man. In the Pinyin romanization, “Yin” becomes ” Chin.” Thus, we have China as the country of the Yin people. culturally and traditionally, the Chins have many kinds of similarities with the Chinese. Sine 1889, the year in which the British empire annexed the Chin Hill, there were British political officers and American missionaries who have closely worked for the Chins. Some of these officers have remarks on the culture, way of life, attitude, habits, body structure, etc., of the Chins.

 

The ”Chin today are widespread in several other countries mainly because of their ill – feeling against the prevailing military rulers. It is necessary to introduce the Chins to other people for the purpose of mutual understanding and interpersonal relationship. To serve this purpose, this article depicts the remarks made by the British political officers and the American missionaries. The first person who made a remark on the Chins was Rev. Arthur Carson who lived and worked for the Asho- Chin in Thayer Myo. In his letter dated January 19, 1888 to the headquarters office of the Baptists in the United States of America, he wrote: There are so many dialects that we can never hope to know and use them all. Our hopes for the future are high. We find them naturally a superior people to the Burmans. They are not quarrelsome, may easily be taught to be independent and manly, and has a sense of gratitude for favors received. They have good mind and hearts capable of great love. Yet, they are just as capable as enmities as of friendships. The greatest evil we will have to meet among them is temperance.

 

A British medical officer Major Newland who himself married a Chin woman in Hakha town wrote a book called A Practical Handbook of Lai Dialect ( 1895). In his book he wrote: A Chin id manly and independent fellow. He has not the cringing, fawning habits of his neighbours the Burmans . He always considers himself the equal of anyone. This independent spirit is the only favorable quality of a Chin. He would be a fine fellow but for his drinking habits. Carey and Tuck, who expedited the Chin Hills, wrote volumes of book which they entitle The Chin Hills ( 1896). In their entitled one can find the following verses:

 

The slow speech, the serious manner, the respect of birth and the knowledge of pedigrees, the duty of revenge, the taste for and the treacherous method of hospitality, the clannish feeling, the vice of avarice, the filthy state of the body, mutual distrust, impatience under control, the want of power of combination and the continued effort, arrogance in victory, speedy discouragement and panic in defeat . . . The Chin Hills are peopled by many clans and communities, calling themselves to be distinct and superior origin . . . Owning firstly to the want of a written language and secondly to the intermiable inter-village warfare, has split up and resulted in Babel of tongues, a variety of customs, and a diversity of modes of living . . . Except in the prosecution of warfare, robbery is practically unknown. A.S. Reid in his book Chin -Lushai land observed the culture of the Chins as:

 

Owning no central authority, possessing no written language, obeying but the verbal mandates of the chiefs, Hospitable and affectionate in their homes unsparing of age and sex while on war path; Untutored as the remotest races in central Africa, and yet endowed with an intelligence. Rev. Dr East, a medical missionary to the Chin in the 1890s, called the Chins as ” splendid people.” His remarks is bases on what he found the existence of God in the hearts, words, and attitudes of the Chins. His diary was compiled in a book form and called it Burma Manuscripts (1910). He wrote: I was led to believe that these people had no knowledge God, no word of love, no word of home. However, I could not accept that ideas as I very thoroughly believe in racial unity and that God made all man out of one blood. It is a certainty that the Chins believe in the God of Heaven as Creator. This knowledge is universal among them.

 

Rev. Dr Strait, an American Baptist missionary to the Chins stationing in Hakha, did not accept the idea that the Chins are so civilized. Rather. he praised the social system of the Chins as well as the skills of women who could weave a high quality silk showls, garments etc., still keeps the Chins silk showls as a valuable thing of the family. Rev Dr J.H Cope, who served the Lord for the Chins associating with the British administrators during 1908 till 1938, mentioned that the Chins have been living in a higher civilization in the past. He indicated that the living situation on the hills makes constant deterioration of the prevailing culture. He wrote a book called Awakening of the Northern Chins. In his book he wrote:

 

There are evidences that these people once had a higher civilization. This is seen from the fact that they are completely clothed and do not appear ever to have been headhunters or cannibals. There is even a tradition of a written language. They differ from many hill tribes in that violent crime is rare polygamy not very common, women more respected, and warfare carried on less brutally than in many hill districts . . . After reaching the hills they quickly spread out in little villages in the narrow valley and many dialects soon developed.

 

Rev. Sowards, Secretary of American ( Burma) Baptist Missionary Society during 1950s prophesized that the Chins will make great contributions to the whole of Burma. He played a leading role in the forming of Zomi( Chin) Baptist Convention and a theological in 1953. School and Hospitals opened for the Chins by British governors and American missionaries opened the eyes of the Chins in many ways. The British administrators recruited the Chins for their army because they knew that they were faithful and dutiful. Today, the Chins are working hard for their seif identity, self- determination, self- dependency, and self-reliance. The only thing that they need to gain the above is freedom which can bring chance for them.

 

Back Cover Poem

 

Rhododendron Land Awakened

Salai Kipp Kho Lian

 

Along the mountainous stretches of the Western Yoma,

And the surrounding vast lowland valleys;

Along the Manipur and the Chindwin rivers,

Tis the homeland of the Chin people.

 

Truth and Freedom do we treasure,

Loyalty and Courage our trademark;

Yea, truly, we are one stock of people-offspring of the same family.

 

Firmly upholding our traditional stance for peace,

and with renewed shall we march forward;

Towards a prosperous new land we have yet to see.

 

The sacred ‘Rih’ lake symbolizes our heart,

But life remains as rough as the Manipur river;

Where cries of suffering have never ceased.

 

The river Manipur unleashed-gushed into the tranquil ‘Rih’,

The resulting angry storm and its thunderous roar;

And the new generation is born;

Behold a land of peace and prosperity!

 

Salai Kipp Kho LianCo-Translated by Liana Suantak from original Burmese version

 

ACTION:

 

1. Write to your MP, Congressman and Senator Expressing your concern at reports of the persecution of the Chin people in Burma.

 

2. Write Indian and Mizoram governments urging the authorities to ensure the safety and protection of all ethnic Chin from Burma in Mizoram.

 

3. Urge the Indian government to allow the United Nations High Commission for Refugees UNHCR access to Mizoram.

 

How you can help:

 

Chin Human Rights Organization depends on concerned people like you. Make your check payable to Chin Human Rights Organization and you will receive Rhododendron Human Rights News letter. Help CHRO continue to play a lead role in documenting human rights situation in Chinland and Western part of Burma.

 

Chin Human Rights Organization

50 Bell Street N # 2

Ottawa, ON K1R 7C7

Canada.

 

BURMESE REFUGEES IN INDIA TO GO HUNGRY

 

New Delhi, 1 February 2001: Fear of possible starvation looms among Burmese refugees in India after the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Office in New Delhi announced in mid January that it will stop assisting them with monthly subsistence allowance of Rs.1400 per person, about $US30.

 

The announcement, which the refugees responded with great disappointment, came with the cited reason of ” the low availability of UNHCR budget allocation for its mission office in New Delhi for the year 2001resulting from scaling down of financial contributions by potential donor countries”.

 

Although the refugees are informed that the termination of Subsistence Allowance payment will come into effect in April 2001, there are some refugees such as Salai Aung Cin Thang who had already been terminated his allowance. The UNHCR will, however, continue to assist those extremely vulnerable individuals such as single women and children.

 

More than 800 Burmese nationals are registered refugees under the mandate of UNHCR in New Delhi. The number constitutes only a few in an estimated 40,000-50,000 Burmese refugees in India who could manage to come to the capital city to claim UNHCR’s person of concern status. Most refugees are ethnic Chin from western Burma who fled serious human rights abuses including forced labor, rape, summary killing and religious persecution by the military regime in their home country. They are mostly Christians and have been subject to religious and racial persecution by the military junta, which came to power in a bloody coup in 1988.

 

Concentrated mainly in the western suburban area of New Delhi, the refugees live in cheap-rented accommodations from the local landlords. They have no other means of supporting themselves and are largely dependent on humanitarian assistance provided by UNHCR to cover their basic needs such as food and shelter. The Government of India does not recognize them as refugees, though it has issued residential permit to those already recognized by UNHCR, which is to be extended every 6 months.

 

Locked between persecution at home and poverty in their country of asylum, the refugees have been over the years, faced with extreme social proble

 

 

 

 

To protect and promote human rights and democratic principles